Nature’s perfect flowering plant

By Larry Cornelis – President, Sydenham Field Naturalists

The plants in this genus are tough, dependable, perennial, and they flower for weeks, especially
if you have a few different species.

The summer and fall blooms attract and support bees, butterflies and birds.

It’s also a plant that is coveted by European and Japanese gardeners and grown in the fanciest gardens there.

Well you’re going to be surprised, because that plant is ‘Goldenrod’.

I’m very excited to share all the important attributes and wonderful things about Goldenrods.

But first, let’s dispel any erroneous facts and myths about these golden wildflowers.

The biggest erroneous fact that is reported is that Goldenrods cause hay fever and allergy problems for people.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Submitted photo

Plants with showy flowers are trying to attract animal pollinators, such as bees, flies, beetles and butterflies to name a few.

The pollen grains of Goldenrods are large and very sticky.

They don’t float around in the air like the wind dispersed pollen from trees, grasses and a few herbaceous plants like Ragweed.

Ragweed blooms at the same time as some of our Goldenrods and hence the assumption/misinformation that goldenrods are to blame for allergic reactions.

They are also commonly referred to as weeds.

What is a weed anyway?

It’s just a plant someone doesn’t want.

My definition of a weed is an introduced plant species that doesn’t have any evolutionary bonds to native wildlife, a species out of harmony with nature.

Goldenrods are in the genus Solidago.

That name comes from the Latin word’s ‘solidus’, which means ‘to make whole’ and ‘ago’, which means ‘to become’.

That translates to ‘becoming whole, alluding to the healing properties associated with Goldenrods.

Goldenrod tea is used to reduce pain and swelling, as a diuretic and to control muscle spasms.

Goldenrods are found mostly in North America.

There are 103 species native to Canada and the USA, 8 to Mexico, 4 to South America and 6 to Eurasia.

Locally we have about 20 but some (Ohio and Showy) are quite rare.

There are goldenrods blooming in my natural landscape from mid-July to the end of October.

Their ecological values are immense, supporting hundreds of species.

Yes hundreds!

Naturally, pollinators benefit hugely from the large plumes and numerous flowers of Goldenrods.

My goldenrods are covered with pollinators throughout their blooming period.

Monarchs benefit from the timing of Goldenrod blooms, supporting them on their journey to Mexico.

We have 400 species of bees that benefit from the pollen and nectar.

Also, the caterpillars of 120 species of butterflies and moths use Goldenrod as a host plant in our region.

The birds also come into this story, eating the caterpillars and of course the seeds.

The seeds are a staple for songbirds in the fall, during migration.

So, it is with great enthusiasm that I recommend you plant goldenrods in your landscapes.

You’ll be amazed at the wildlife activity around them.

And because they are native, they are perfectly adapted to our climate.

No extra watering or fertilizing of these plants.

The species that I have include Blue-stemmed, Early, Gray, Hairy, Ohio, Riddell’s, Seaside, Showy, Stiff and Zigzag.

Some like it wet, some dry, some shade and some sun.

Most prefer sun.

These species are what I call well behaved plants, not spreading by long rhizomes like a few of their kin (Tall and Canada).

Look the species up for details.

Then include some in your flower beds or better yet, create a natural landscape with them and other native wildflowers.

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