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The Fiery Blonde Tresses of the Goldenrod Girl

Photo by Kevin McKeon.

by Kevin McKeon

There are 19 species of goldenrod, Solidago, native to Maine. These perennial herbs are members of the aster family, blooming alongside them from August through fall. A legend has two girls, one fiery blonde and the other with starry-blue eyes, always wanting to be together and for others to always be happy, so they asked this of a witch. They were never seen again, but next to the blooming bright yellow hairs of the goldenrod can be found the asters’ blue eyes!

Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky, so is not wind-blown, and does not cause the perennial hay fever attacks for which many folks blame it; these attacks are mostly caused by common ragweed, a wind-blown, pollen-heavy plant that blooms at the same time as the beautiful Solidago.

Plant goldenrods in your garden, in the wilder areas or in the perennial border. Simply allowing goldenrod and its native companions to flourish in a wild corner or border will provide nectar and pollen for native pollinators…there are few perennials more ornamental or more durable. Solidago’s late-season nectar and protein-rich, sticky pollen attract pollinators in higher numbers than any other plant species. Native solitary bees and bumblebees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, and spiders are frequent visitors and homemakers among the goldenrods. These creatures attract the birds and amphibians which feed upon them, and also feed upon the many pests we humans find annoying! So goldenrod is a great plant for the garden, east to care for, helps with pests, and a colorful treat for early to late autumn viewing.

Being a herb, it was historically used as a treatment for various conditions: inflammation, urinary tract infections, arthritis, skin conditions, as an antiseptic, and many other purposes. Early colonists found that it made an excellent tea. Recent discoveries have found goldenrod to be an effective remedy for kidney stones and to slow the flow of blood.

The goldenrod gall fly lays its egg on a goldenrod. Upon hatching, the larva eat within the plant’s stem and forms a round enlargement, or gall, on the stem from the reaction of the plant to the larva’s saliva. The larva will chew an exit hole before the plant tissue hardens up for the winter. In the spring, the adult fly will exit through this hole. Downy woodpeckers and chickadees will peck at these galls to access the sleeping larva, especially in harsh winters.

Goldenrods naturally produce rubber! A variety, the Solidago altissima, or Tall Goldenrod, produces 6.34.% rubber content. Thomas Edison experimented with a cultivation process to increase rubber content in these plants, and George Washington Carver and Henry Ford devised a process to make a much-needed rubber substitute during World War II using goldenrods.

View some goldenrod photos here:

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