Monday, September 16, 2013

Rabbit Tobacco or Eupatorium?

Janie J asked how I tell the difference between Gnaphalium obtusifolium  Rabbit Tobacco  and
Eupatorium perfoliatum Common Boneset. 

If you cannot tell at a glance, smell the plants. Eupatorium flowers have a pleasant fragrance. Rabbit Tobacco has a resinous smell, flowers and all. You might find it unpleasant; I like the herbal aroma of it.


Rabbit Tobacco.

Color is important. Eupatorium flowers are a bright white, Rabbit Tobacco is more cream colored.
The flowers are shaped differently.

Rabbit Tobacco clumps are usually more slender with denser flower heads.
Leaves are thick up and down the stem. By this time of year, the bottom leaves 
usually begin drying into a silver color backed by brown.

Eupatorium has those lance-shaped leaves in a more open arrangement and
the flower head looks more like an airy bouquet.

Botanists give certain characteristics that we won't go into there, like sessile leaves and such. Do note that Eupatorium leaves are more lance shaped, while Rabbit Tobacco has many very slender leaves. 

Clumps of  Eupatorium among grasses and other plants.

Rabbit Tobacco among grass and dead stems of Erigeron and  a yellow wildflower.
Don't let the exposure of this pic fool  you, it made the Rabbit Tobacco look whiter.

That is your wildflower lesson for today. Test tomorrow.


  1. What a great lesson! I'll see if we can grow Rabbit tobacco here. I have different eupatoriums, though none of the white.

  2. Nice ,lush green growth. Is that Bahia grass I see?

  3. I have two plants that have Eupatorium type flowers. I have Rabbit Tobacco as well. What I call Boneset has lance shaped leaves. Trying to get the two Eupatorium IDed properly. I did not know about the fragrance -- will look into that.

  4. I made the mistake of moving the native eupatorium to a flower bed..........still trying to control it. I think it is pretty but it is very invasive here. I am letting one clump grow near the anemone robustissima, but must remember to clip the bloom heads before it seeds.

    I had rabbit tobacco in the yard last year but haven't found any this year and the fields have been clipped so much it may be gone. I would like to try it again. We 'tried' it in our youth....didn't know it could be good for you. I may have to order seeds.

  5. I'll have to take a picture...of what I looks a little different than both....but it might be the Eupatorium

  6. I have never heard of rabbit tobacco. Must look out for it.

  7. Very informative. So many wildflowers are superficially similar and difficult to differentiate. You've given a very succinct and easily understandable lesson on identifying these two.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

Google+ Followers