Another reason to love Ironweed? It's the title of one of my favorite books: the Pulitzer-prize winning novel by William Kennedy about the drifter Francis Phelan's search for redemption. A novel that has one of the best opening lines ever:
"Riding up the winding road of Saint Agnes Cemetery in the back of the rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even more than the living, settled down in neighborhoods."
And here's the definition of Tall Ironweed that opens the novel--and reveals a lot about Francis, really--adapted from The Audubon Society's Field Gide to North American Wildflowers:
Tall Ironweed is a member of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). It has a tall erect stem and bears deep purple-blue flower heads in loose terminal clusters. Its leaves are long and thin and pointed, their lower surfaces downy. Its fruit is seed-like, with a double set of purplish bristles. It flowers form August to October in damp, rich soil from New York south to Georgia, west to Louisiana, north to Missouri, Illinois and Michigan. The name refers to the toughness of the stem.That last line? The toughness of the stem? Perfect.