Asteraceae (Aster family)
Description: A tall perennial with multiple annual shoots arising from persistent underground rhizomes. Leaves narrowly oblanceolate, sessile, upper surface rough to the touch. Small yellow flowers in dense terminal clusters with long, arching branches. Fruit an achene. Flowers Aug.-Oct.
Habitat/range: Fields, roadsides, forest edges, and disturbed areas. Common. Native to eastern and central North America, it has become naturalized in western North America and Europe.
Taxonomy: Species identification can be difficult as hybridization within the genus is common, and variation within a species can be considerable.
Ecology: It's not unusual to find multiple species of goldenrod within the same field or roadside area. Blooming in late summer or fall, goldenrods often turn drab openings into fields of gold. Like many goldenrods, tall goldenrod spreads vegetatively from underground stems (rhizomes), with some clones consisting of more than 20 connected shoots. The tall stems (up to 6 ft.) emerge from winter-dormant rhizomes in late spring and die back in late fall. A long growing season means that individuals must tolerate a wide range of climatic conditions, including heat, drought, and cold. People sometimes associate goldenrods with runny noses, itchy eyes, and sneezing, but goldenrods are not the culprit. Goldenrods are insect-pollinated, and their pollen grains are too large and sticky to be carried by wind. Instead, the primary cause of late summer or fall hay fever is ragweed (Ambrosia), with its abundant, small, nonsticky, wind-borne pollen.
Wildlife: Look for cryptically colored yellow ambush bugs and goldenrod spiders sitting motionless within flower heads, waiting to prey on nectar-feeding bees, flies, and butterflies. More than 100 kinds of insects feed on tall goldenrod, including gall-forming midge and fly larvae that cause stem swellings of various shapes and sizes.
Uses: Goldenrods provide fall color in perennial borders and are used in the floral trade as cut flowers.
Solidago curtisii Torr. & A. Gray
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