Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset)

Plant Info
Also known as: Tall Thoroughwort
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; open woods, thickets, prairies, along railroads, waste areas
Bloom season:August - September
Plant height:2 to 6 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: flat Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Flat-topped branching clusters of stalked flowers at the top of the stem and arising from upper leaf axils, a cluster comprised of numerous small clusters of 4 to 11 disk flowers each. Flowers are about 1/8 inch across, dull white, star-shaped with 5 triangular petal-like lobes. In the center is a brown column of white-tipped stamens; styles are white, flattened, long and string-like. The bracts around the base of a flower are in 2 or 3 layers, green with white edging, and hairy; the inner bracts are oblong and much longer than the outer bracts.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves and stem] Leaves are 2 to 5 inches long and to 1 inch across, minutely hairy, widest near or above the middle, pointed at the tip with a long taper to the base, and stalkless or nearly so. There are small, widely-spaced teeth in the tip half of leaves but smaller leaves in the upper part of the plant may be toothless. Leaves have 3 conspicuous parallel veins and there are often smaller leaves in the axils. Stems are erect, unbranched except near the flowers, minutely hairy, and green or tinged reddish brown.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a small dark seed with a tuft of dull white to light brown hair to carry it off in the wind.


While the flowers of Tall Boneset look much the same as those of Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), the 2 species are easily distinguished by the leaves, with Common Boneset having opposite leaves that join around the stem. Common Boneset also prefers moist soil where Tall Boneset is found in medium moisture to dry habitats, and starts blooming later in the season. The flowers superficially resemble those of White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), which is a woodland species that has more heart-shaped leaves.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken along the railroad tracks at Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Joe - Bloomington/Hennepin Co.
on: 2012-08-13 11:36:45

This plant showed up in my garden last year and is spreading throughout. I think I must have picked up its seeds wandering prairie SNA's in other counties

Posted by: Nancy B - Dakota County, between Co. Hwy 94 and RR track.
on: 2016-10-04 14:10:14

This plant is growing in a native remnant along the RR track about 1/2 mile west of Alta Avenue.

Posted by: Douglas Owens-Pike
on: 2018-09-04 08:41:09

Late Boneset Eupatorium serotinum is this a different plant from tall boneset or same with new nomenclature?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2018-09-04 12:19:15

Douglas, E. serotinum has stalked leaves where E. altissimum are stalkless and the latter blooms a little earlier. They've been known to hybridize.

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