(Solidago) Thistle family

When these flowers transform whole acres into "fields of the

cloth-of-gold," the slender wands swaying by every roadside, and

purple asters add the final touch of imperial splendor to the

autumn landscape, already glorious with gold and crimson, is any

parterre of Nature's garden the world around more gorgeous than

that portion of it we are pleased to call ours? Within its limits

eighty-five species of goldenrod flourish, while a few have

strayed into Mexico and South America, and only two or three

belong to Europe, where many of ours are tenderly cultivated in

gardens, as they should be here, had not Nature been so lavish.

To name all these species, or the asters, the sparrows, and the

warblers at sight is a feat probably no one living can perform;

nevertheless, certain of the commoner goldenrods have

well-defined peculiarities that a little field practice soon

fixes in the novice's mind.

Along shady roadsides, and in moist woods and thickets, from


(S. caesia) sways an unbranched stem with a bluish bloom on it.

It is studded with pale golden clusters of tiny florets in the

axils of lance-shaped, feather-veined leaves for nearly its

entire length. Range from Maine, Ontario, and Minnesota to the

Gulf States. None is prettier, more dainty, than this common


In rich woodlands and thicket borders we find the ZIG-ZAG or

BROAD-LEAVED GOLDENROD (S. flexicaulis; S. latifolia of Gray) its

prolonged, angled stem that grows as if waveringly uncertain of

the proper direction to take, strung with small clusters of

yellow florets, somewhat after the manner of the preceding

species. But its saw-edged leaves are ovate, sharply tapering to

a point, and narrowed at the base into petioles. It blooms from

July to September. Range from New Brunswick to Georgia, and

westward beyond the Mississippi.

During the same blooming period, and through a similar range, our

only albino, with an Irish-bull name, the WHITE GOLDENROD, or

more properly SILVER-ROD (S. bicolor), cannot be mistaken. Its

cream-white florets also grow in little clusters from the upper

axils of a usually simple and hairy gray stem six inches to four

feet high. Most of the heads are crowded in a narrow, terminal

pyramidal cluster. This plant approaches more nearly the idea of

a rod than its relatives. The leaves; which are broadly oblong

toward the base of the stem, and narrowed into long margined

petioles, are frequently quite hairy, for the silver-rod elects

to live in dry soil, and its juices must be protected from heat

and too rapid transpiration.

In swamps and peat bogs the BOG GOLDENROD (S. uliginosa) sends up

two to four feet high a densely flowered, oblong, terminal spire;

its short branches so appressed that this stem also has a

wand-like effect. The leaves, which are lance-shaped or oblong,

gradually increase in size and length of petiole until the lowest

often measure nine inches long. Season, July to September. Range,

from Newfoundland to Pennsylvania and westward beyond the


Now we leave the narrow, unbranched, wand goldenrods strung with

clusters of minute florets, which, however slender and charming,

are certainly far less effective in the landscape than the

following members of their clan which have their multitudes of

florets arranged in large, compound, more or less widely

branching, terminal, pyramidal clusters. On this latter plan the

SHOWY or NOBLE GOLDENROD (S. speciosa) displays its splendid,

dense, ascending branches of bloom from August to October.

European gardeners object to planting goldenrods, complaining

that they so quickly impoverish a rich bed that neighboring

plants starve. This noble species becomes ignoble indeed, unless

grown in rich soil, when it spreads in thrifty circular tufts.

The stout stem, which often assumes reddish tints, rises from

three to seven feet high, and the smooth, firm, broadly oval,

saw-toothed lower leaves are long-petioled. Range, from Nova

Scotia to the Carolinas, westward to Nebraska.

When crushed in the hand, the dotted, bright green, lance-shaped,

entire leaves of the SWEET GOLDENROD or BLUE MOUNTAIN TEA (S.

odora) cannot be mistaken, for they give forth a pleasant anise

scent. The slender, simple, smooth stem is crowned with a

graceful panicle, whose branches have the florets seated all on

one side. Dry soil. New England to the Gulf States, July to



rugosa), a perversely variable species, its hairy stem perhaps

only a foot high, or, maybe, over seven feet, its rough leaves

broadly oval to lance-shaped, sharply saw-edged, few if any

furnished with footstems, lifts a large, compound, and gracefully

curved panicle, whose florets are seated on one side of its

spreading branches. Sometimes the stem branches at the summit.

One usually finds it blooming in dry soil from July to November,

throughout a range extending from Newfoundland and Ontario to the

Gulf States.

Usually the ELM-LEAVED GOLDENROD (S. ulmifolia) sends up several

slender, narrow spires of deep yellow bloom from about the same

point at the summit of the smooth stem, like long, tapering

fingers. Small, oblong, entire leaves are seated on these

elongated sprays, while below the inflorescence the large leaves

taper to a sharp point, and are coarsely and sharply toothed. In

woods and copses from Maine and Minnesota to Georgia and Texas

this common goldenrod blooms from July to September.

The unusually beautiful, spreading, recurved, branching panicle

of bloom borne by the EARLY, PLUME, or SHARP-TOOTHED GOLDENROD or

YELLOW-TOP (S. juncea), so often dried for winter decoration, may

wave four feet high, but usually not over two, at the summit of a

smooth, rigid stem. Toward the top, narrow, elliptical, uncut

leaves are seated on the stalk; below, much larger leaves, their

sharp teeth slanting forward, taper into a broad petiole, whose

edges may be cut like fringe. In dry, rocky soil this is,

perhaps, the first and last goldenrod to bloom, having been found

as early as June, and sometimes lasting into November. Range,

from North Carolina and Missouri very far north.

West of the Mississippi how beautiful are the dry prairies in

autumn with the MISSOURI GOLDENROD (S. Missouriensis), its short,

broad, spreading panicle waving at the summit of a smooth,

slender stem from two to five feet tall. Its firm, rather thick

leaves are lance-shaped, triple-nerved, entire, very

rough-margined, or perhaps the lowest ones with a few scattered


Perhaps the commonest of all the lovely clan east of the

Mississippi, or throughout a range extending from Arizona and

Florida northward to British Columbia and New Brunswick, is the

CANADA GOLDENROD or YELLOW-WEED (S. Canadensis). Surely everyone

must be familiar with the large, spreading, dense-flowered

panicle, with recurved sprays, that crowns a rough, hairy stem

sometimes eight feet tall, or again only two feet. Its

lance-shaped, acutely pointed, triple-nerved leaves are rough,

and the lower ones saw-edged. From August to November one cannot

fail to find it blooming in dry soil.

Most brilliantly colored of its tribe is the low-growing GRAY or

FIELD GOLDENROD or DYER'S WEED (S. nemoralis). The rich, deep

yellow of its little spreading, recurved, and usually one-sided

panicles is admirably set off by the ashy gray, or often cottony,

stem, and the hoary, grayish-green leaves in the open, sterile

places where they arise from July to November. Quebec and the

Northwest Territory to the Gulf States.

No longer classed as a true Solidago, but the type of a distinct


graminifolia; formerly S. lanceolata) lifts its flat-topped,

tansy-like, fragrant clusters of flower-heads from two to four

feet above moist ground. From July to September it transforms

whole riverbanks, low fields, and roadsides into a veritable El

Dorado. Its numerous leaves are very narrow, lance-shaped, triple

or five nerved, uncut, sometimes with a few resinous dots. Range,

from New Brunswick to the Gulf, and westward to Nebraska.

"Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold

That tawny Incas for their gardens wrought,

Heavy with sunshine droops the goldenrod."

Bewildered by the multitude of species, and wondering at the

enormous number of representatives of many of them, we cannot but

inquire into the cause of such triumphal conquest of a continent

by a single genus. Much is explained simply in the statement that

goldenrods belong to the vast order of Compositae, flowers in

reality made up sometimes of hundreds of minute florets united

into a far-advanced socialistic community having for its motto,

"In union there is strength." (See Daisy) In the first place,

such an association of florets makes a far more conspicuous

advertisement than a single flower, one that can be seen by

insects at a great distance; for most of the composite plants

live in large colonies, each plant, as well as each floret,

helping the others in attracting their benefactors' attention.

The facility with which insects are enabled to collect both

pollen and nectar makes the goldenrods exceedingly popular

restaurants. Finally, the visits of.insects are more likely to

prove effectual, because any one that alights must touch several

or many florets, and cross-pollinate them simply by crawling over

a head. The disk florets mostly contain both stamens and pistil,

while the ray florets in one series are all male. Immense numbers

of wasps, hornets, bees, flies, beetles, and "bugs" feast without

effort here indeed, the budding entomologist might form a large

collection of Hymenoptera, Diptera, Coleoptera, and Hemiptera

from among the. visitors to a single field of goldenrod alone.

Usually to be discovered among the throng are the velvety black

Lytta or Cantharis, that impostor wasp-beetle, the black and

yellow wavy-banded, red-legged locust-tree borer, and the painted

Clytus, banded with yellow and sable, squeaking contentedly as he

gnaws the florets that feed him.

Where the slender, brown, plume-tipped wands etch their charming

outline above the snow-covered fields, how the sparrows, finches,

buntings, and juncos love to congregate, of course helping to

scatter the seeds to the wind while satisfying their hunger on

the swaying, down-curved stalks. Now that the leaves are gone,

some of the goldenrod stems are seen to bulge as if a tiny ball

were concealed under the bark. In spring a little winged tenant,

a fly, will emerge from the gall that has been his cradle all


GOLDEN RAGWORT GROUNDSEL SQUAWWEED GOLDTHREAD CANKERROOT [GOLDTHREAD] facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail