What’s that wildflower? Solidago Species

Let me preface by saying: Happy Thanksgiving to all! Anybody here ready for 2020 to be over?

Much of what this year has taught me is that I can do without a few things and be just fine. Places like Walmart seem to have every option available for any sort of cooking or baking need, but I’ve found that I really don’t need all of these already prepped meals or fancy types of sugar to get the job done.

One of my goals has been to shop local more (this was prior to the pandemic), particularly for groceries. Because of the pandemic, I’ve really made good on that promise to myself. Northside in Hardin, Red & White in Brussels, Odelehr’s in Brussels, and Blueridge Farms’ 4Square Market in Hardin have been lifesavers for our family this year! The best part about shopping local is connecting with people, even if it’s just saying “hello” to a fellow neighbor in the baking aisle at Northside or while waiting for your meat to be cut up at Red & White. Talking with the store owners and clerks or simply just exchanging smiles can add value to our day in more ways than we realize. I would argue, also, that human connection in 2020 has been all the more important.

Another thing I’ve particularly valued in 2020 has been nature, and a big part of nature is plants, both wild and domesticated ornamentals. I’m longing to make my garden and landscaping like that of my mom’s. If anybody knows Beth, they know she has beautiful landscaping. I begrudgingly sat in the car throughout my childhood during the spring and summer months while she went to pick out more plants, but the result has been something truly remarkable. It is ever-changing, but ever-beautiful.

The “wildflower” for this month is often noted as weed in this area and throughout the state .You see it in ditches and on woodland edges, around telephone poles, and maybe even in some gardens. Believe it or not, this wildflower or “weed” is grown purposefully in many gardens, as it has many beautiful varieties and makes a great filler in a flower bouquet. While the flowers are not as showy, they provide a brilliant burst of yellow in the landscape in the Fall. So, without further ado, the wildflower of the month is:

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

You’ll notice that for the scientific name I’ve written Solidago spp. rather than including a species name. Solidago is the genus, but there are over 120 species and cultivars in this genus. A few of the most prevalent species I see along the roadsides are Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and tall goldenrod (Solidago altissima).

Solidago species can grow up to 60 inches tall and are considered a rhizomatous perennial. This means that it spreads via underground root systems called rhizomes. You’ll often see this plant in colonies because of this characteristic. They also spread prolifically by their wind-blown seeds, which have a several white hairs that allow them to float easily through the air.

Young plants have a rosette-like appearance due to the way the long, narrow leaves are shaped. The stems are mainly unbranched. Leaves are alternate and sessile (attached directly to the stem rather than having a petiole). Mostly the leaves have toothed margins. Leaves tend to become smaller as they ascend the stem.

Yellow flowers appear between August and October. The flower heads occur in panicles and tend to curve or arch. Flower heads have both ray and disk flowers. Bracts surround the ray flowers. Bracts are modified leaves that surround a flower, and often times they can be more colorful or eye-catching than the flower itself. A great example of this is the poinsettia plant that has colorful leaves but an inconspicuous flower.

The many species of goldenrods differ in their height, the width of the leaves, how hairy the plant is either on the leaves or the stems, and how the flower cluster is shaped (Uva, Neal, and DiTomaso, 1997). In my own observations, tall goldenrod tends to have a more upright appearance to its flower head compared to Canada goldenrod’s curved flower head.

This plant attracts bees and butterflies because of its abundance of nectar and is known to be deer resistant (NC State Extension). This plant is often blamed for allergies, when in fact it is usually plants called ragweed that are to blame for allergies during the time of the year that goldenrods are blooming. As a kid, I often called this yellow-flowered plant ragweed because of its “raggedy” appearance. This is just one of numerous examples of how people use the same common name for multiple species and often misidentify using common names. For examples, “horseweed” can be a common name for both of the weeds “marestail” and “giant ragweed”.

So, while most may say that goldenrod is a weed, it is an important late source of nectar for pollinators like bees and butterflies, and can be highly sought after by florists as a filler in floral arrangements! This plant is actually used widely in Europe in the landscape as well.

Future “What’s That Wildflower?” Posts

Each month, my goal is to provide insight into often overlooked native or interesting species that we see throughout the countryside. My intent is to highlight plants that are blooming or have recently bloomed within the month that I am posting. As you can imagine, we are heading into the winter months, so it will be hard to “highlight” plants of the countryside because not much blooms in the winter. I’m open to researching and sharing about any other plants that strikes the public’s fancy, so if you’d wish to know more about a particular plant, please send me pictures at sieversblumen@gmail.com and I will try to help with identification for you!

I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving with your family, whether it is in-person or virtually this year! May we give thanks for all the blessings God has bestowed upon us, even the little things that we don’t often praise Him for enough!

Happy Thanksgiving from Sievers Blumen Farm!

References

Uva, Richard H., Neal, Joseph C., and Joseph M. DiTomaso. Weeds of the Northeast. New York, Comstock Publishing Associates, 1997. pp. 156-57.

Solidago.” North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. NC State Extension. <https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/solidago/&gt;