What a sad case. Poor goldenrod is merely trying to make the world a more beautiful place, and feed a few lucky butterflies and bees. Suddenly a case of mistaken identity has this good plant on the defensive…and seemingly losing ground!
It all started when someone got the sniffles. It wasn’t a cold, it was hayfever. The name alone is a misnomer: there is no hay in the neighborhood, nor was there a fever…only seasonal allergies! The suffering victim looked out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator and saw goldenrod in its full glory. We all know the danger of assumption.
Not knowing the identity of goldenrod, our victim visited an allergist (most definitely NOT a horticulturist!) only to be told that the problematic plant is ragweed. Upon returning home, the victim went to the garage, gassed up the string trimmer and proceeded to dispatch all of the goldenrod in the neighborhood while cursing ragweed. There are no winners in this tragic tale.
This is not the weed you are looking for
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) and ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) should no longer be confused. While both genera are in the aster family, goldenrod has a showy bright yellow flower and ragweed has a creamy green colored flower that is very much muted in comparison. While the sizes of some species of goldenrod and ragweed can be similar, the foliage and forms of the plants are dissimilar. In short, they don’t look alike and the only way they can be confused is based on the assumption that it’s the yellow thing that’s making us sneeze.
Goldenrod Is Not Guilty!
Goldenrod is an upstanding member of the community. Not only does it welcome hungry wayfaring wildlife, but it also adds beauty to our late summer and autumn landscape. Goldenrod associates with other plants with similar values: ironweed, joe pye weed, and milkweed. Let them not be called weeds, as weeds are “plants out of place.” Let them be properly called wildflowers!
A wonderful plant, goldenrod is often seen as a bit too large, and goes too far into the growing season before flowering, for domestication. For those interested in giving it a try, ‘Fireworks’ goldenrod has a dwarf habit, and mixes well with coneflowers, black-eyed susans, daylilies, and other sun-loving perennials. As the wild drifts of this plant suggest, it’s a hardy specimen with few needs other than water until it becomes established. Happy gardening!