Under-appreciated Goldenrods

It is hard to think of a group of native plants that is as under-appreciated than the goldenrods (Solidago sp.). Far more than just some yellow flowering plants that show up in fallow fields and abandoned lots, the goldenrods are an ecologically important group that offers pollinators and other animals a literal bonanza of food, shelter, and nesting materials well into the fall. There are two major groups of goldenrods based on the type of habitats they prefer. The prairie goldenrods contain many of the species we are most familiar with including early goldenrod (Solidago juncea – http://bit.ly/1tm64Rl), stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida – http://bit.ly/1uXcObm), grass-leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia – http://bit.ly/VEWey2), and late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea – http://bit.ly/1lhRcDG). These species prefer a good amount of sun and can be quite aggressive in open habitats. This, coupled with their overall size, means that you should plan ahead if you are short on space. The woodland goldenrods are some of my personal favorites and are arguably some of the most showy. These include zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis – http://bit.ly/1BCGEUm), elm-leaved goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia – http://bit.ly/1peNEC7), and swamp goldenrod (Solidago patula – http://bit.ly/VEWDjT). As you may have guessed, these species prefer a bit more shade than their cousins. There is a species for almost every occasion. For those of you with more specific habitat needs, perhaps a species like bog goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa – http://bit.ly/1peO23f) or cliff goldenrod (Solidago sciaphila – http://bit.ly/1kVlBHw) may offer up something different. For something entirely different, why not consider upland white goldenrod (Solidago ptarmicoides – http://bit.ly/XADSQh)? Unlike its bright yellow cousins, this lovely little plant throws off white flowers, which resemble those of true asters. Whatever your preference or situation may be, there is a goldenrod to suit all occasions. Sadly, goldenrods often get blamed for causing the dreaded hayfever. This is simply not true. Goldenrods are all insect pollinated plants. Their pollen is quite large and sticky so as to better adhere to the body of visiting insects. Because of this, goldenrod pollen cannot become airborne and can never make its way into your sinuses. The true cause of hayfever is the wind pollinated ragweeds, which broadcast copious amounts of lightweight pollen into the air. We cannot stress enough how important goldenrods are on the landscape. Including them into your property will provide ecosystem services will into the fall when most other plant life is shutting down.

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