Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh Those Goldenrods

Justin Evertson and Jim Locklear 
'Fireworks' goldenrod

        As the first hints of autumn begin to creep in, the late summer landscape becomes speckled with the yellow hues of goldenrod (Solidago spp.).  Because fall is also the major allergy season, goldenrod is often considered one of the causes of hay fever.  In reality, goldenrod has absolutely nothing to do with this malady.  In fact most plants with colorful flowers do not cast their pollen to the wind, but rather work for the affections of flying insects to spread their fertility.  The culprit is ragwood, which releases vast quantities of pollen into the September air from tiny, green, nondescript flowers.  But goldenrod comes into its glory at the same time, lining roadsides with showy drifts of yellow and gold.  Guess which catches the blame?
The goldenrods (genus Solidago and Euthomia) are a large group of plants native to woodlands and prairies.  About 16 goldenrods are native to Nebraska.  Members of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), a close look at the showy flower clusters of goldenrod will reveal they are comprised of great numbers of tiny yellow daisies. 
        There are many types of goldenrod native to the prairie regions.  One of the most common, late goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) is Nebraska’s state flower.  In late summer, it bursts on to the scene in prairie areas and road ditches across the state.  Another distinctive native is stiff goldenrod (S. rigida), which is noted for its distinctive flat plates of yellow flowers.  Several goldenrods make great additions to the flower garden, including:

·         Showy Goldenrod (S. speciosa) is a prairie native with very attractive wands of blazing yellow held above the foliage.

·         ‘Crown of Rays’ has large, golden, crown-like flowers on stiff, 2-3’ tall plants.

·         Wichita Mountains’ possesses very distinctive bottlebrush like spikes of yellow flowers.

·         ‘Golden Fleece’ is a smaller goldenrod with arching sprays of butter-yellow flowers.

·         ‘Fireworks’ is a distinctive 3-4’ tall selection from the eastern US with lacy, radiating, long lasting blooms of yellow-orange.

Goldenrod is a beautiful and easy-to-grow plant for the landscape or perennial border.  This fall, enjoy some in the prairie or plant some in your own garden.  And remember to tell the neighbors that goldenrod is completely innocent of the hay fever charge.

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