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Plant Spotlight: Goldenrod

September 24th, 2011

Baroness Matilda and all the children showed me over the whole estate on their first free afternoon. When we passed by a large bed of tall yellow flowers, Rupert said proudly:

“This is echte amerikanische Goldrute (genuine American Goldenrod). Papa says it is quite expensive, and we are not supposed to pick it. Pepi, our gardener, takes special care of it with a special kind of manure mixture”.

I admired wholeheartedly this noble guest from America, whose golden blossoms attracted all the bees of the neighborhood.

– Maria Augusta Trapp The Story of the Trapp Family Singers

Goldenrod is a truly beautiful plant, especially at this time of year when most other flowers are waning here in the Northern parts. It provides a bright pop of color and blends beautifully with the colors of fall, blooming just before the leaves start the change. Most people consider it a weed, but it’s really a native wildflower, actually an herb. Goldenrod is a beneficial plant, playing host to butterfly larvae and repelling other insects considered pests. Being a vital source of both nectar and pollen for pollinators, it’s allowed a place in the gardens of Chiot’s Run.

Goldenrod is a member of the aster family, along with joe pye weed, chicory, black-eyed susan, liatris and many others. It produces food for a wide variety of insects: monarch, clouded sulfur, American small copper and gray hairstreak butterflies as well as a wide variety of other pollinators like: bumblebees, wasps, soldier beetles, honeybees, syrphid flies and others. Lucky for the the monarchs it’s blooming everywhere during their migration through Ohio so they have a plentiful source of food for their journey.

Goldenrod is under appreciated and even vilified by many people. Those will fall allergies often blame goldenrod for their sniffling, but ragweed is actually the plant they should be cursing. As with many “weeds”, goldenrod is actually an herb. Traditionally it was used medicinally for it’s anti-inflammatory and diuretic effects. It was also used because on wounds because it helps promote healing.

Interestingly enough, while researching for this post, I found out that goldenrod contains rubber. Inventor Thomas Edison tested a number of plants looking for a source of rubber after being asked to find a native source by his friend Henry Ford. He finally settled on goldenrod because it contained the most and through his experiments was able to produce a 12-foot-tall plant that could contained as much as 12% rubber. The rubber produced was long-lasting resilient, examples of it can still be found in his laboratory, elastic and rot free after more than 50 years. In fact, the tires on the Model T given to him by Ford were made from goldenrod. Edison turned his research over to the U.S. government a year before his death, goldenrod rubber never went beyond the experimental stage. Which is quite a shame since the synthetic rubber based on petroleum became the material of choice for car tires.

Many people shudder when they think of goldenrod blooming in their gardens, but I welcome them. They can become invasive since they spread by both seeds and underground rhizomes, but I find that they’re easily pulled out when the need arises. I don’t let them grow in my cultivated foundation gardens, at least not in large numbers, or in the vegetable garden. They do however, spread freely along the edges of the woods and in the more naturalized garden areas. We actually have a couple of the 125 different species, it’s quite interesting to note the differences between them.

Do you incorporate any native wildflowers in your gardens? Any goldenrod?

18 Comments to “Plant Spotlight: Goldenrod”
  1. Becca on September 24, 2011 at 6:32 am

    Great article, Susy! I find myself wanting to plant goldenrod.

    Reply to Becca's comment

  2. K.B. on September 24, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I only have flower beds in front of the new shed so far (long story), so no golden rod, but for me, the sight of golden rod flowering along side with the fall asters here means FALL to me. I have heard some call the asters “Farewell Summer”, and that is the most fitting name!

    In my former job (I worked in biocontrol research for 15 years), we had a collaboration with some scientists from China, where golden rod is an invasive weed. I saw photos of people on *ladders* trying to get to the tops of the plants! So, yeah, I knew it could grow tall!! Maybe they should start looking at it as a rubber alternative :)

    Reply to K.B.'s comment

    • Susy on September 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

      I think the tallest I have is about 6-7 ft tall here. We also have a fairly compact variety that growing only about 2 ft tall and blooms along the stems instead of on showy tops. I’m amazed there are 125 different varieties! It seems like a viable alternative to the petro-based rubber that doesn’t last as long.

      Reply to Susy's comment

      • GMO on May 9, 2012 at 1:30 am

        wow, you have 6-7ft tall goldenrod? I think i only got 4 ft, that’s the tallest i’ve got here. LOL

        to GMO's comment

  3. Joshua on September 24, 2011 at 7:16 am

    We have an enormous yellow-flowered plant blooming behind the fence. I think you’ve probably identified it.

    Reply to Joshua's comment

  4. Lisa on September 24, 2011 at 8:50 am

    I saw that tall goldenrod speciman on display at Edison’s winter estates laboratory in August (dead, of course). If you ever get a chance to get down to Fort Myers; go! Edison was quite the plant scientist and the Ford/Edison estate has many interesting species still growing. Petroleum 1, Renewable 0. Great trip!

    Reply to Lisa's comment

  5. goatpod2 on September 24, 2011 at 9:18 am

    We have lots of golden rod here but we don’t incorporate it into our gardens though.


    Reply to goatpod2's comment

  6. SewLindaAnn on September 24, 2011 at 10:15 am

    I have one variety I just planted this Spring in my garden. Can’t remember what it is, I love it though and happy to hear about the pollinators. If it gets to be too much I’ll transplant it out of the garden.

    Reply to SewLindaAnn's comment

  7. Barbara on September 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Thank you! I’ve always loved the appearance of goldenrod in the autumn, but because my brother had such awful allergies in childhood, I thought it was a “bad” plant. Thanks to your post, I’m going to incorporate some here around the house!

    Reply to Barbara's comment

  8. Sincerely, Emily on September 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I really like golden rod. We grew up picking it to use in flower arrangements from different flowers in the yard.I know we have it growing here in TX but none on my property or my neighbors, so I took seeds from my moms gardens in MN and also brought a few transplants with me last year. I struggled to get the seed going, but finally succeeded and a few of the transplants have survived for a year, but are only 12″ tall. I have planted them in two areas of the backyard and will continue to “help” them become established. I hope to have some more areas of them growing in another year or two. They are so beneficial and I would welcome them in semi-abundance! I love having native plants and flowers growing. I am focusing more on those types of plants. Emily

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  9. Sincerely, Emily on September 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Forgot to mention…it has often gotten a bad rap for causing allergies when it is really the ragweed that is culprit.

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  10. KimH on September 24, 2011 at 8:25 pm

    Haha… Although I think Golden Rod is beautiful.. I am allergic to it.. Not just sensitive.. severe allergy, tested & true. Ragweed too. Cedar too.. not that theres any of that here in Ohio, thank God! ;)

    I’ve always loved Goldenrod & I enjoy seeing it on the sides of the road, I dont have any in my yard. If I had a few acres, I would as long as it was a good pace away..

    Reply to KimH's comment

  11. KimH on September 24, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Native wildflowers, of these I have a few… I have some trilliums, jack in the pulpit, jacobs ladder, wild roses…I know there are more out there, but Im coming up blank.

    Reply to KimH's comment

  12. daisy on September 25, 2011 at 4:34 am

    Love the history about Edison, although the outcome is sad. What would he think of the way things are today? Hmmmmm…

    We don’t have any goldenrod, but I’m thinkin’ we need to! Great post!

    Reply to daisy's comment

    • Susy on September 25, 2011 at 6:10 am

      I thought that information was quite interesting when I came across it as well.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  13. Misti on September 25, 2011 at 10:09 am

    I absolutely love goldenrod. I look for signs of it as Fall approaches. This year due to the drought it is several weeks behind in blooming, just now getting to blooming stage.

    Reply to Misti's comment

  14. Allison on September 26, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Interesting! We have Goldenrod all around the borders of our property and I love it. I think it looks so pretty!

    Reply to Allison's comment

  15. Trish on September 26, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    We have some growing between our house and the neighbors. Not sure where it came from – it hasn’t always been there, and I didn’t plant it deliberately. Last week I went out to pull it – I generally try to keep the weedier plants confined to the backyard since I’m not sure our neighbors appreciate them growing so close. But there were at least two bumblebees and a bunch of other insects enjoying the bounty, and I didn’t have the heart to deprive them so it stayed.

    Reply to Trish's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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