AaaCHOOO!!! This time of year you may be sneezing, and you may blame goldenrod as one of the culprits in your allergy attack. Most likely it isn’t.

On our regular walks recently, Jim and I have been seeing more and more flowering goldenrod. The plants near us have heights of about 24 to 30 inches. Their flowering heads brush lengthwise, reminding me of ancient brooms, worn down from years sweeping the stone hearth. We see them growing along the paths we walk, currently the front fringe, so recently occupied by blooming Queen Anne’s Lace.

Goldenrods, flowering plants of the genus Solidago, are native to North America, abundant with about 100 species. They are perennials that grow in meadows, fields, roadsides, and ditches. Around us they are most apparent on the fringes of green space, including the low areas used for storm drainage in our neighborhood.

Photo by R.W. Smith, Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center

A common characteristic of the plants are bright yellow or golden flower heads that bloom in late summer. Though the species can look quite similar, making it difficult to identify the exact one in your neighborhood, the variety in characteristics is wide. Note this paragraph from the wiki description. As you can see, one species is this while another is that.

Solidago species are perennials growing from woody caudices or rhizomes. They have stems that can be decumbent to ascending or erect, ranging in height from 5 to 100 or more centimeters. Some species have stems that branch near the top. Some Solidago species are hairless others have strigose, strigillose, hispid, or short-villous hairs. The basal leaves in some species remain persistent through flowering, while in others the basal leaves are shed before flowering. The leaf margins are often serrate, and leaf faces may be hairless or densely hairy; the distal leaves are sometimes 3-nerved, and hairless or sparsely to densely hairy with scabrous, strigillose, or villous hairs. In some species the upper leaves are stipitate-glandular or sometimes resinous. The flowering heads usually radiate, sometimes discoid, with (1–)2 to 1500+ florets in racemiform (club-shaped or pyramidal), paniculiform or corymbo-paniculiform, or sometimes secund arrays. The involucres are campanulate to cylindric or attenuate. The ray florets are pistillate and fertile. The corollas are yellow or rarely white and are usually hairless. The disc florets are bisexual and fertile and number 2 to 35 typically, but in some species there may be up to 60 florets.

So what about your allergies? Often people blame their seasonal allergies on goldenrod. However, the pollen is heavy and sticky, and typically is not blown far from the plants. The plants are pollinated by insects, not wind. Instead, the likely culprit in the allergy attacks is ragweed, which blooms at the same time.

I like to find unusual connections from what we see around us and how others use or think about it. Here is a poem by Elaine Goodale Eastman (1863–1953), which captures the essence of September, including the blooming goldenrod. I find it comforting, in a way, that we still experience late summer the same way, despite the “progress” of the world since this poem’s publication in 1879.

When the wayside tangles blaze
In the low September sun,
When the flowers of Summer days
Droop and wither, one by one,
Reaching up through bush and brier,
Sumptuous brow and heart of fire,
Flaunting high its wind-rocked plume,
Brave with wealth of native bloom, –

When the meadow, lately shorn,
Parched and languid, swoons with pain,
When her life-blood, night and morn,
Shrinks in every throbbing vein,
Round her fallen, tarnished urn
Leaping watch-fires brighter burn;
Royal arch o’er Autumn’s gate,
Bending low with lustrous weight, –

In the pasture’s rude embrace,
All o’errun with tangled vines,
Where the thistle claims its place,
And the straggling hedge confines,
Bearing still the sweet impress
Of unfettered loveliness,
In the field and by the wall,
Binding, clasping, crowning all, –

Nature lies disheveled pale,
With her feverish lips apart, –
Day by day the pulses fail,
Nearer to her bounding heart;
Yet that slackened grasp doth hold
Store of pure and genuine gold;
Quick thou comest, strong and free,
Type of all the wealth to be, –

The University of Maryland Medical Center provides information on the medicinal uses of the plant. They do caution that there are no high-quality studies in humans on its medicinal properties. Given that, they do say:

Historically, goldenrod (Solidago canadensis or Solidago virgaurea) has been used topically for wound healing. It has also been used as a diuretic (helps rid the body of excess fluid). The name solidago means “to make whole.” Traditionally, goldenrod has also been used to treat tuberculosis, diabetes, enlargement of the liver, gout, hemorrhoids, internal bleeding, asthma, and arthritis. Topically, goldenrod is used in folk medicine to treat inflammation of the mouth and throat, as well as slow healing wounds.

No high quality studies have examined goldenrod’s effect in humans. A few animal and test tube studies suggest it may help reduce inflammation, relieve muscle spasms, fight infections, and lower blood pressure. It does seem to have diuretic properties, and is used in Europe to treat urinary tract inflammation and to prevent or treat kidney stones. In fact, goldenrod is commonly found in teas to help “flush out” kidney stones and stop inflammatory diseases of the urinary tract.

Read more:…

Goldenrod serves as an inspiration for poetry, a material for arrangements of dried plants, and a potential source of healing. It also can be used to make tea and is used in some other recipes, as well. As always, I’m not real interested in trying them myself. But if you are, you can do some digging and find sources for those recipes. Let us know how that works out!

Do you have goldenrod blooming near you? What else is going on in your neighborhood? Let us know where you’re posting from.


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