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Common Wildflowers of Ohio’s Autumn, part 1.

September 10, 2011


It is early September in Ohio, and meadows are turning a golden yellow color.  This is a big change from summer’s white blanket of Queen Anne’s Lace, the roadside Chicory blue that we’re used to.  This plant has been slowly growing, gradually turning its well-known color as it matures.  It’s been building up since the beginning of August, and will become the standard scenic plant throughout the autumn months.

This field is slowly but surely turning that classic autumn color

This is of course Goldenrod, a widespread North American wildflower family consisting of nearly 100 species, preferring to grow in such sunny locations as fields and roadsides.  It’s actually pleasant to see such a numerous plant that’s a native for a change!  However, that doesn’t stop it from being invasive in other parts of the world, such as Germany and China, where it displaces native plants.  One person’s delight is another’s invader.

A patch of mature Goldenrod

Goldenrod’s color is so distinctive that the name has become synonymous with the bright golden yellow hue of the mature wildflower.  Nebraska and Kentucky have adopted Goldenrod as their state flower.  In some areas, this plant is a sign of good luck.  It is used for ornamental decoration and is prized as a garden plant in Europe.  It can even be made into a tea.  In the Midwest, its blooms are a traditional signal that school is ready to start once again.

Goldenrod is often blamed by hay fever sufferers as being a source of their misery.  Happily, this is not true.  Hay fever is indeed caused by plant pollen, but Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy, requiring insects to spread it.  The frequent allergy culprit is actually Ragweed, which blooms at the same time and in the same locations as Goldenrod.  Ragweed’s pollen is light and easily airborne, much to the misery of those susceptible to hay fever.  Since Goldenrod is much showier than Ragweed, it often gets the blame.  Unfairly so!

On the medicinal front, Goldenrod was often prepared as an infusion to treat kidney ailments.  Native Americans would chew its leaves to relieve a sore throat or a toothache.

Looking at the plant’s blooms close-up, you can see groups of tiny golden flowers clustering together.

Insects fortunately find Goldenrod very attractive, leading to its easy propagation via its pollen hitching a ride on said insects.  Multiple species of bees, flies, beetles, wasps and some butterflies are attracted to the plant.  There is a bug known as the Goldenrod Gall Fly that lays eggs in the stem of the plant that hatch into a larva that creates a spherical gall to live within.  Quite a few moth caterpillars eat the leaves of this plant.  When in high bloom, it can be hard to get a picture of the blooms without seeing insects within.  Animals such as rabbits and deer will occasionally eat this plant.  American Goldfinches love their seeds, and since Goldenrods produce around 3,000 seeds per plant, that’s a lot of potential food.

There are many different varieties of this plant.  Perhaps the most well-known is Canada Goldenrod, a common and rather showy species, with its branching stems.  Another easily noticeable species in Flat-Topped Goldenrod, and there is Stiff Goldenrod, noted for its upturned leaves.  There are numerous others.  Here are some of them that I’ve seen blooming so far this month.  The show will only get better as we head deeper into autumn.  Enjoy!

31 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2011 8:30 pm

    Beautiful. I’m seeing a lot of this too. One of the first signs Autumn is just around the corner that we see here is the brightly colored Sumac tree. Sumac leaves turn beautiful colors beginning the end of August, through October. I’m so enjoying your blog, please keep the incredible photographs coming!

  2. John Northcutt Young permalink
    September 10, 2011 9:32 pm

    Another informative post with lovely pictures as usual. Been hearing that myth about the goldenrod causing hay fever all my life, hopefully that tale will die out soon.

    • September 13, 2011 12:32 pm

      Thanks John- funny how those myths have staying power. This is one case in which a pretty flower brought undue attention upon itself.

  3. September 10, 2011 10:28 pm

    So that’s what it is called, LOL! It is everywhere here too. I love how vibrant the yellow is. Nice shots Tracy!

  4. September 11, 2011 12:25 am

    It is abundant there too. I always enjoy seeing it although it means that the cold time of year is rapidly approaching. I always thought that it was allergenic too, although I have no allergies myself. I’m glad to find that it is not!

  5. September 11, 2011 6:02 am

    Great post! We have a lot of Goldenrod in Berlin as well… but, like you mentioned in your post, it is considered an invasive species here. There are 4 to 5 species of Solidago growing throughout the city, so it can be seen on almost every block! We haven’t written a post about it yet but plan to soon… 🙂

    Our German edible plants book suggests making goldenrod mouthwash to treat gum disease – sounds like the Native Americans used it for similar ailments!

  6. September 11, 2011 6:02 am

    Beautiful…it blooms in our yard too. I look forward to goldenrod every year here in Wisconsin.

  7. September 11, 2011 9:24 am

    Hi. I love the uniformity of their color and the diversity of their form. You have given us some great information… I didn’t know it could be made into tea, or how many seeds it produced. Nice post for September. Jane

    • September 13, 2011 12:38 pm

      Thanks, Jane! I was wondering when to do a post on this subject, but the day before I posted this there was so much of it in the fields that now seemed the perfect time.

  8. September 11, 2011 10:07 am

    You take such gorgeous photos of flowers, the two close-ups photos of the Goldenrod are very pretty.

    • September 13, 2011 12:40 pm

      Thanks prairiebirder! Of course I took some better pictures 2 days after I posted this article, but that’s how it goes 😉

  9. September 12, 2011 9:43 am

    Enjoyed this information and the variety of photos, Tracy! It grows abundantly here in Georgia. Interesting that 100 species of Goldenrod exists.

    • September 13, 2011 12:43 pm

      Thanks Karen! I was really surprised as the number of species as well. I’ve started to look closely at the different kinds, and I’m noticing quite a few now. Some are very distinctive (Stiff & Flat-Topped Goldenrod) and others are sort of similar-looking (Canada & Showy Goldenrods). But there is a lot of different kinds I’ve noticed just walking around the parks here.

  10. September 12, 2011 3:26 pm

    Great post W.S., I love Goldenrod…and you are so right with the myth of its pollen causing allergies…it would be ashamed if that were so…it is a beautiful sight along the road…and in the field…a little secret of the Goldenrod…don’t tell anyone…the round “gall” you talk about on the stem of the Goldenrod…when the frost comes and the plant dies…that round “knob” stands out on the stem…you can see them easily along the road or field…

    The secret???…not that there is a larvae inside the “knob” but that that larvae is great fishing bait for winter pan fishing…so if you see people out cutting open the “knob”…they are not damaging anything…just want some free bait!!!…we saw lots on our trip to Minnesota from Arkansas…keep up the great stuff…I love it…

    • September 13, 2011 12:45 pm

      Thanks Jim! I didn’t realize that the galls were free fishing bait, but that makes sense- I read somewhere that woodpeckers will peck at the galls for a larvae snack, I wonder if they picked that up from folks looking for bait?

  11. September 13, 2011 4:24 pm

    Great pictures, and I enjoyed the lesson on goldenrod. Of course, you did leave out one important piece of information: Goldenrod is (or was) the name of one of the Crayola crayons! Do you remember reaching for a deep yellow in your box of 64 and picking out goldenrod? I haven’t noticed many changes in the plants here in our part of Virginia yet, but in two weeks I’ll be going to New England, and I’m sure I will see fall beginning to make a statement.

    • September 13, 2011 7:38 pm

      That’s a great point, Susan- you know you’ve arrived when Crayola names a color after you 🙂

  12. Barbara Rodgers permalink
    September 13, 2011 8:33 pm

    I especially like the picture with the bee in the goldenrod. As a ragweed allergy sufferer I am happy to know that the pretty goldenrod is not the cause of my discomfort! Great photographs, Tracy!

    • September 13, 2011 10:02 pm

      Thanks, Barbara! The bees are busy this time of year, and this plant seems to be a favorite 🙂

      Ragweed on the other hand… 😦

  13. September 14, 2011 7:12 pm

    Thank you for showing us how beautiful Goldenrods are. Tiny clusters of yellow flowers in a flower, amazing. Every photo captured the exquisite beauty that most of us would otherwise miss. I wish I live in a place where Autumm is at its best. Hope to see more…

  14. September 15, 2011 12:26 am

    Great Post. I admire your ability to capture the beauty of Mother Nature and share such interesting information about it too. 🙂


  1. Common Wildflowers of Ohio’s Autumn, part 2. « Seasons Flow
  2. Early Autumn. « Seasons Flow
  3. Types of Goldenrod. | Seasons Flow

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