Goldenrod (Solidago) is Trending!
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
OR If You Only Add One Native Plant to Your Yard, Make it Goldenrod! Keystone plant species are what native plant guru Doug Tallamy calls in his book Nature’s Best Hope “the backbone of local ecosystems, particularly in terms of producing food that feed insects” Most importantly, “landscapes that do not contain one or more species from keystone genera will have failed food webs, even if the diversity of other plants is very high.” This means no matter how many natives plants you have in your yard, if you don’t plant keystone plants, your yard won’t be a successful wildlife habitat. Solidago (goldenrod) is at the top of Doug Tallamy’s list of essential plants. The National Wildlife Foundation has a great site to help you find the keystone native plants that host the most butterfly and moth caterpillars in your zip code. Goldenrod is of course the top caterpillar plant in my zip code. It’s a gracious host for 92 species of butterflies and moths!
The value of goldenrod can usually be found in just about any blog written by native plant businesses, native plant gardeners or environmental or educational organizations spreading the word about native plants. If I knew nothing about native plants, watching the pollinators descend on a flowering goldenrod in my yard tells me all I need to know about how valuable it is!
I’ve met so many people who want to help our precious pollinators and birds but have a traditionally landscaped yard and don’t know where to start. As daunting a task as restoring an ecosystem sounds, adding just one powerhouse native plant to a chemical free landscape will have a positive impact. As a bonus, doing this yard by yard will also transform the way people garden and even encourage the nursery industry to take notice and start offering pesticide free native plants.
Knowing what plants to add to the landscape is complicated by zealous native plant converts like me who get stuck in the weeds of the native plant world and can't imagine why everyone hasn't already ripped up their lawn and replaced it with hundreds of native plants.
I’ll try to make the first plant decision an easy one for anyone who doesn’t know where to begin: plant a patch of native goldenrod! Make sure to get it from a native plant nursery or reputable native plant seed source. The goldenrod cultivars you’ll find at traditional nurseries may be treated with neonicotinoids, a systemic insecticide that will kill pollinators. There’s also a debate over whether cultivars are less attractive to pollinators, so all things being equal, why not just buy the straight species? I promise, you’ll thank me when next fall when your glorious goldenrod patch is covered in pollinators!