Smoky Mountain Goldenrod

Smoky Mountain Goldenrod adds to color to late summer and fall!

Smoky Mountain Goldenrod adds to color to late summer and fall!

Smoky Mountain Goldenrod. Of all the wildflowers that grace the fields in late summer and fall, probably none is more misunderstood than goldenrod.  Thought to be the cause of fall hay fever and other sinus problems, goldenrod instead is both an autumn or late summer beauty as well as a healer.  Indeed, its Latin name, solidago, can be translated as “making whole.”

A member of the aster family and native to North America, goldenrods occur in over 100 species and have been introduced to South America, Europe, and Asia.  Domesticated varieties have also been developed for flower gardens.

All varieties grow from large woody rhizomes that form clumps of flowers, typically 3 feet tall with a spread of 1.5 feet.  Goldenrod prefers an airy, sunny location in a meadow or field with good drainage. Its moisture needs are fairly modest, allowing it to tolerate both drought and poor soils, even East Tennessee clay.  Moreover, goldenrod is free from most plant diseases, but can develop rust or powdery mildew in rainy weather, especially if the plants do not have good air circulation. Consequently, spacing is an important consideration when planting goldenrod.

Insect pests are no problem for goldenrod.  Rather goldenrod attracts a wide variety of butterflies, bees, and wasps and so makes an excellent addition to a pollinator garden as well as providing its rich dusky to bright yellow blooms at a time when other flowers are fading.  Some types of flies do deposit their eggs in goldenrod stems, which then develop bulbous galls in which the larvae feed.  However, these galls do not harm the plant.

Native Americans and settlers made a tea from goldenrod leaves to treat sore throats, toothaches, colds, flu, inflammation, and kidney-urinary tract infections.

But what about the accusations that goldenrod causes sinus problems.  This arises from the fact that ragweed produces its pollen at the same time that goldenrod blooms.  The air-borne ragweed pollen can stick to the tacky goldenrod leaves that may even be some distance away, creating the impression that goldenrod is culprit.  So it’s a good idea to keep ragweed far away from goldenrod.  Otherwise, goldenrod makes a nearly trouble-free addition to our flower and pollinator gardens.

HeySmokies.com is honored to have Carl Parsons as a contributing writer. Carl is Deputy Editor for Storyteller Magazine, a member of the Writers’ Guild of Sevier County, TN, and a Tennessee Master Gardener.

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