Ever considered including Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) in your garden? It’s great for late season pollinators, provides nectar for many beneficial insects and is amazingly hardy. As we approach planting season, I challenge you to consider adding a Goldenrod to your landscape! It’s one of my favorites!
Goldenrod is a host plant for a number of beneficial insects and is used as a food source by a number of moth and butterfly caterpillars. The Goldenrod in my gardens is literally covered with bees, wasps, flies and butterflies sipping nectar when it is in bloom. Other insects including Praying Mantis, Lacewings, a number of spider species, beetles and parasitic wasps utilize it for both habitat and food.
It is especially valuable for pollinators in late summer when other plants are dormant. In my garden Pine Siskins eagerly harvest seeds and insects while dangling on the tall stems during fall months.
Historically Goldenrods were unjustly blamed as the cause of hay fever, but the true hay fever culprit is really ragweed (Ambrosia sp.) which blooms at the same time as Goldenrod. While ragweed’s pollen is wind-born, the pollen of Goldenrod is to heavy and sticky to be blown in the wind and it is pollinated primarily by insects. So nix to that argument!
With nearly 100 species of Goldenrod (some are difficult to distinguish from others), there is at least one species that grows in your area. In the Rocky Mountains we have 11 species including Solidago canadensis, S. missouriensis, S. gigantea, S. multiradiata, S. rigida and S. decumbens.
There is a great deal of variation among the Goldenrods. Some (like Rocky Mountain Goldenrod (S. multiradiata) are rather short and have smaller flowers; others such as Giant Goldenrod (S. serotina) top six feet in height with open flower heads crowded in showy pyramidal clusters. Rigid Goldenrod (S. rigida) is found in wet areas while Missouri Goldenrod (S. missouriensis) is an inhabitant of dry open meadows. Rocky Mountain Goldenrod prefers high elevation, cooler sites while Canada Goldenrod is found in ditches and in disturbed areas at lower elevations.
Goldenrods spread by both seeds and rhizomes so they can become pesky, especially if given supplemental water. Best to avoid water! It seldom becomes problematic in rangelands and is not invasive when put in a sunny, dry location. I do try to contain them in my gardens by occasionally removing seedlings and removing shoots that overstep their boundaries, but I find them quite manageable. Then again, I don’t water except in the extreme heat of summer.
Many of the Goldenrods are positively affected by disturbance and thrive in disturbed soils. They will often colonize these areas rather quickly and play a significant role in erosion control.
The leaves have significant quantities of latex and apparently Thomas Edison attempted to create rubber from them although the rubber was rather sticky and lacked tensile strength.
Considered a weed by some Goldenrod has nonetheless earned a reputation as a prized garden plant by gardeners worldwide providing swaths of gold color covered with buzzing insects.
So next time you are looking for a good plant for color, late season bloom time and/or a great pollinator plant, go for the gold and find a Goldenrod to add to your landscape!
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