Goldenrod


When I was a kid my father told me that once the goldenrod bloomed summer was over. I always associated goldenrod with the start of school. In general this is true, but the genus Solidago has over a hundred species and one found here blooms in spring. It is a threatened species and rarely noticed.

Most goldenrods are upright perennial shrubs with 2-4 inch narrow tooth edged leaves that emerge from the stem singly. Yellow (rarely white) flowers grow from the stem tips. Some goldenrods can be six feet tall or more and stem hairiness varies from nearly smooth to quite hirsute. Different species interbreed readily, so precise identification is difficult.

One of the more common ones is the Canada goldenrod, a primary food for migrating Monarch butterflies. Young larvae usually eat milkweed. Canada goldenrod tolerates varied fertility and moisture conditions, meaning you can expect to see it anywhere except highly shaded areas. It is a prolific seed producer and it forms a dense mat of roots and rhizomes, also great reasons for its abundance throughout North America.

Many other butterflies flock to goldenrod, not just Monarchs. Because of this there is interest in developing compact ornamental varieties. Fewer fall-blooming plants frequent fields and roadsides, meaning less food is available for bees and butterflies. Goldenrod is easy to grow and presents few challenges for gardeners with purple thumbs.

The only real insect pest to goldenrod is the goldenrod gall. Depending upon how you look at it, it might even have positive qualities. The insect lays eggs in the stems and in response to the invasion the plant forms a barrier of tissue that eventually looks like a golf ball on a stick. When these stems with galls on them are dried they are quite decorative and useful in dried floral arrangements.

Those with pollen allergies sometimes inaccurately accuse goldenrod for their discomfort. However, its pollen is heavy, sticky and not readily spread by wind. Ragweed is usually the culprit. The two grow and bloom in similar locations, but ragweed doesn’t have showy flowers and often escapes accusation. Goldenrod allergies exist, but they are not caused by pollen.

Goldenrod is often recommended by herbalists to treat many problems. Teas and extracts made from leaves and flowers are used to fight inflammation of arthritis and gout. Treatment of colds, flu, sore throat, urinary tract infections and kidney stones are other uses. Some apply solutions topically to treat eczema and minor wounds.

Goldenrod contains many diuretic chemicals. Therefore, people who are already taking medicine to remove excess water might want to consult their doctors before consuming too much of it. The same goes for those taking Lithium. It could build up in their blood to potentially dangerous levels if too much body fluid is removed. Other than that, there are few concerns regarding goldenrod use.

Tea flavor varies among species. Some types, most notably sweet goldenrod, have anise scented and flavored leaves. The licorice flavor is quite pleasing to me, but that species isn’t abundant here.

goldenrod flower close-up

goldenrod inflorescence

stand of goldenrod

stand of goldenrod – about 6 feet tall

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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31 Responses to Goldenrod

  1. cjbvans says:

    Great to see that a plant we think is simple has so many medicinal properties. One the fact the butterflies use it as food, but mostly the fact that we use it for for treating so many problems like inflamation of arthritis and gout, colds, flu, sore throat,etc.

  2. zachvanett says:

    I like the fact that we could use naturally drugs from plants instead of synthetic drugs which in the long run can actually be bad for the body

  3. Good that such a simple plant in our enviroment can be used for the human body in so many different ways.

  4. amanda wensel says:

    Its incredible how such a plant can be used to provide us with a natural drug to cure illnesses.

  5. i was glad to see that this plant had good things outweigh the bad with the uses. The only problem with it was if you took too much it could take too much water out of your body which is not safe.

  6. there seems to be alot of different plants that can be used in so many ways to help the human body against illness or pain, this being one of many.

  7. zachvanett says:

    It was cool that the goldenrod can be used to help people

  8. I didnt know that this plant could be used in so many ways to help the body. I also have noticed them blooming near the start of school every year.

  9. It’s incredible that there are so many natural growing plants that can help human body.

  10. donnashawna says:

    its crazy that this plant can help human growth

  11. It is amazing to have such natural plants on earth that can help us with illnesses.

  12. susiehedley says:

    I love seeing specific plants having close relations with tea (which I love), and the benefits the extracts of the goldenrod can have on the human body.

  13. I see this pretty plant bloomed all over. And i had no idea that it could cure so much with the human body. the plant can be used with healing the body all over. neat plant with many uses

  14. kimberlypaigeweaver says:

    I never knew that this plant could help us in so many ways. Its good to know that it can help with cols, the flu, arthritis and kidney stones. But its sad to know that if you take to much it can take alot of water out of your body and hurt you.

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  16. awhitenhs12 says:

    This plant must be very common because i see it a lot. Its also great that it has a lot of medicinal properties that are good for the human body.

  17. My grand father has many struggles with his arthritis and gout, he takes many prescription drugs to help ease pain. Its very peculiar that an extract from the goldenrod plant emersed into tea could also ease his pain.

  18. this plant seems great for medical studies and it looks great too!

  19. tjones123 says:

    the goldenrod is a very pretty flower. the bright yellow is eye catching.

  20. sbright16 says:

    I never knew the name for this plant till now my mom always told me it was a butterfly bush and its neat that you can tell when summer is over by there flowers.

  21. I never knew that this plant could help people in so many ways. Its good to know that it can help with flu, arthritis and kidney stones.

  22. i neve thought that a plant could help your body so much.

  23. seankathryn says:

    i never new a plant could help the human body so much, pretty flower though

  24. sbright16 says:

    I think its cool that it treats gout because my dad gets it really bad and it would be useful for him.

  25. its cool that this plant can be used for so many different uses for the human body.

  26. such a bright plant and very cool that it can help arthritis and gout.

  27. Its amazing that something as simple as a plant can be used to help cure the human body.

  28. It’s amazing that this plant can be used to help people with illnesses and that it has an appealing taste for teas.

  29. i think its nice becuase it can help people

  30. alishabw says:

    I found it interesting that this plant could heal so many issues in the human body I always thought it was no more than an ordinary flower that was pretty to look at when it bloomed.

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