Thursday, November 2, 2023

Florida's goldenrods

Goldenrods do Not cause allergies

The insect-pollinated goldenrods (Solidago spp.) with their beautiful flowers have erroneously been blamed for fall allergy season when it's the wind-pollinated ragweed (Ambrosia spp.) with the unnoticeable green flowers that are filling the air with pollen when the goldenrods are blooming. The ragweeds do not need to put any energy into creating beautiful flowers or sweet nectar because the wind will blow anyway. As I understand it, some allergy doctors test people to see if they are allergic to goldenrod pollen even though that pollen is too heavy and sticky to float in the air and there is zero chance of its getting into anyone's nose. 

A swallowtail butterfly is pale in comparison to
the very yellow goldenrod.
Ragweed, the source of the air-borne pollen that gives people hay fever.

Goldenrods in Florida

We love that the scented goldenrod (Solidago odora) has volunteered in our yard in many areas over the years. It's native to all of North Florida and indeed is native to all of eastern North America from Texas to Canada. 

There are 22 species of goldenrod that are native to Florida, but only about half of them are readily available for sale in the native plant industry. Solidago is in the daisy or aster family (Asteraceae) but it lacks the showy ray florets that are so common in this family, but there are so many disk florets that the whole flower heads are quite showy anyway. (Go to to find native plant vendors with goldenrods (or other Florida native plants) in stock.)

Also, to learn much more about Florida's goldenrods, Craig Huegel posted a series of detailed articles with great photos on the various species. Click on this link to the first article Goldenrods - Solidago spp. and then at the bottom, click "newer post" to read the next in the series and continue to do this until you reach the end of the goldenrod stories. 

Bee close-up: note the pack of pollen on its leg. Carpenter bee and a polka-dotted wasp moth.

Goldenrods in the landscape

The scented goldenrod is an aggressive spreader via its roots, but it's easy to remove if needed. It grows to five or six feet tall and will lean if it's at the edge of the meadow without other meadow plants to lean on.  If it plants itself in inconvenient areas, I have transplanted quite a few plants to places where there is room for it to grow in some of our wilder meadow areas. Sometimes the top dies back, but then it usually regrows from the roots the next spring. 

Goldenrod in the fall landscape A wasp pollinating the goldenrod

I've written a few articles on the above space in our landscape, now populated by goldenrods, where I've been replacing lawn with meadow habitat over the years:
From lawn to woods: a retrospective
The never-ending story of a native landscape
Adventures in Creating a Native Garden
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Seaside goldenrod

About ten years ago, I bought a seaside goldenrod plant (Solidago sempervirens) and in comparison, the florets are thicker and showier than our naturally occurring scented goldenrods. The pollinators seemed to prefer them. It never spread, but then, we're not in its native coastal areas and where its salt tolerance would be more important. Here is a link to its FNPS plant profile, with more details on the plant and a link to native plant vendors that have it in stock. You'll notice that some of my photos on that page. 

A bee on seaside goldenrod. Many bees on seaside goldenrod.

So I hope you'll embrace the goldenrods in your yard, because the pollinators will appreciate it and it won't make you sneeze.

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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