It’s HOT! It’s summer! Well… getting to be late summer. Which also means that it’s Goldenrod time!
First, let’s dispel the stereotypes. Goldenrods aren’t the source of your allergic suffering. Their big, sticky pollen is ferried about by insects, not wind. You can thank the light, wind-borne pollen of Ragweed species (Artemesia spp.) for that.
Well… and before you try to rid the planet of ragweed, two cautions: as an annual, it thrives on disturbance, so the more humans flail about, tilling, spraying, digging, etc… the more we probably encourage their growth. Oops. Secondly, Common Ragweed is a pretty important part of the native ecosystem:
Many kinds of insects feed destructively on Common Ragweed. This includes the larvae of long-horned beetles, larvae of weevils, larvae and adults of leaf beetles, larvae of tumbling flower beetles, larvae of leaf-miner flies, plant bugs, Uroleucon ambrosiae (Brown Ambrosia Aphid) and other aphids, Stictocephala bisonia (Buffalo Treehopper) and other treehoppers, mealybugs, larvae of Adaina ambrosiae (Ragweed Plume Moth) and many other moths, and grasshoppers (see Insects Table). Many upland gamebirds and granivorous songbirds are attracted to the oil-rich seeds (see Bird Table). Because the spikes of seeds often remain above snow cover, they are especially valuable to some of these birds during winterhttps://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/weeds/plants/cm_ragweed.htm
Wait, this post was supposed to be about Goldenrods!
Ahhhh, that’s better. Pictured here is Grey Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) growing on the sand hill that is Moontree Studios. The “goldenrods” are plant species that belong to the Genus Solidago. We have several kinds in Indiana. Lots, actually. Here’s a list for our state:
Not all Goldenrods can grow on top of a sand hill. Some only grow in swamps and saturated soils, like this Swamp Goldenrod I stumbled on near Flat Lake in 2018 (not the best photos, sorry):
But by far the most common Goldenrod seen by most folks (esp. in roadsides and old fields) is Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). It is native to N. America, but it’s very aggressive and can completely dominant old fields for years, perhaps decades. Some managers even decide to control the species with mechanical or chemical methods, to promote diversity. It’s a nuanced conversation. Despite this, the beautiful yellow late-season blooms are a boon for pollinators (and their predators) if they happen to match up with its timing.
Canada Goldenrod gets pretty tall and wild. But there are some underappreciated species that I think many would find beautiful in more landscaped settings. Here is Elm-leaved Goldenrod, which is found in native oak forests and tolerates plenty of shade. My kids and I call it “Fireworks Goldenrod” for reasons that are obvious when you see the blooms.
Any time there is a well-known plant, there are often lesser known cousins with different bloom times, leaf or flower arrangements, shade and soil requirements, etc. In order to preserve as much biodiversity as possible, it’s good to acquaint ourselves with the whole family.
So… Solida-GO outside and enjoy the show that Goldenrods are putting on right now.