Troup County Extension agent: Goldenrod takes a bad rap

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 2, 2015

Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

September heralds one of nature’s last big flower shows. Pastures and roadsides are adorned with the brilliant displays of the goldenrod.

Goldenrod belongs to the aster family asteraceae, and its genus name is solidago. There are about 100 different species of goldenrod.

Goldenrod takes a lot of blame for causing allergies. Common ragweed blooms at the same time and is the real culprit. Ragweed doesn’t have beautiful yellow blossoms to attract pollinators.

Ragweed uses the wind to pollinate. Wind pollination is a chancy thing so consequently the ragweed flowers release billions of pollen particles to the wind, which causes lots of sinus problems.

The green, inconspicuous ragweed doesn’t attract any attention from the allergy sufferers who are looking for a plant to blame. The goldenrod is easy to spot and it takes the rap.

On the other hand, goldenrod attracts pollinators by the score. Its sticky pollen readily attaches to the bees frequenting the flowers.

The pollinator’s predators are also there, the wheel bugs and flower crab spiders. These guys like to ambush the pollinators as they arrive to collect nectar.

This native specie can be spotted all over North America and Mexico. It’s considered invasive in Europe and other parts of the world.

The perennial goldenrod has a spreading root system, which may make it a troublesome addition to the garden. British gardeners don’t mind the limitations and appreciate it much more than Americans.

If you get up close, you may notice two types of swollen lumps or galls on the stem. The round ones are home to larval stage of the Goldenrod Stem Gall and the spindle shaped ones are home to the larval stage of the Goldenrod Gall Moth. These parasites are attacked by predator beetles who dine on the larva.

Native Americans considered goldenrod a medicinal plant. Many early settlers considered it an herb and following the example of Native Americans used it as such. One thing to watch out for is that the texture of the plant may cause allergic reactions to some.

Goldenrod naturally contains rubber. Thomas Edison experimented with increasing the rubber content through fertilization and cultivation. Henry Ford financed research by George Washington Carver in the same vein until Carver’s death in 1943.

As fall moves into winter, enjoy the blooms of the goldenrod along our roadsides and pastures. Nothing can paint prettier picture than Mother Nature.

What’s going on in Extension?

Jefferson Street Market begins Saturday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon at 625 Jefferson St. just off of Dallis Street.

Oct. 10: Our 59th Annual October Harvest Fest will be held at the LaGrange Mall in the J.C. Penney parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon. We will have locally grown produce plus jellies and jams and all kinds of crafts. If you wish to have a booth, call the extension office for further information

Oct. 29: Small Flock Management Class. Cost $15; lunch provided. Call the extension office to sign up.

Tree seedlings can be ordered from the Georgia Forestry Commission, 706-845-4122.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.