Eupatorium perfoliatum commonly called common boneset is a common North American perennial plant in the sunflower family.
Native to the Eastern United States and Canada, widespread from Nova Scotia to Florida, west as far as Texas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Manitoba. The plant produces dense clusters of tiny white flower heads held above the foliage.
The leaves growing together around the stem lead to a past superstition that wrapping the leaves in bandages around splints would help mend broken bones.
Boneset also had other medical uses, and was a very common remedy in the United States in the 19th century.
The flowers are white and made of many individual buds that give an overall dreamy or fuzzy look to the plant. The flower blooms in late summer.
Boneset is healthiest in well watered earth or woods and swampland. By ingesting a slight amount of plant poisons each day along with various antidotes, Mithridates was able to build an immunity to many poisons, such that when he wished to commit suicide, poison would no longer work and he had to have his servant slay him by the sword.
Mithridates died in 63 B.C. Long a friend of Rome, he and Rome moved apart and he was finally defeated in his own kingdom of Pontus in Asia Minor by Pompey, which battle earned Pompey the title “Pompey the Great.”
The species name, perfoliatum, is Latin and refers to the stem piercing the leaf. The common name of Boneset comes from the use of the plant in treating what was known as “break bone fever” (dengue).
As a medicinal remedy it is a stimulant, tonic, emetic, antispasmodic and diaphoretic. Unlike Joe Pye Weed, it is not a diuretic. It was a legendary plant among the Native Americans and early European settlers for its capacity to cause profuse perspiration to treat fevers and also to loosen the bowels.
The nectar or pollen of the flowers attracts many kinds of insects, including bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, and beetles. In particular, many kinds of unusual flies and wasps are attracted to the flowers because of the accessibility of the nectar.
The caterpillars of various moth species are known to feed on various parts of Common Boneset, including Haploa clymene (Clymene Moth), Phragmatobia lineata (Lined Ruby Tiger Moth), Papaipema cataphracta (Burdock Borer Moth).