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Why Goldenrod is Native Plant Gold

OR Goldenrod's Many Charms. In my previous post I explain why everyone in the native plant world is talking about goldenrod (solidago). A few years ago, I found a bright and lovely goldenrod growing in my yard when just about everything else was done blooming. I let it stay. Since then, I’ve learned firsthand about the many attributes goldenrod brings to my wildlife sanctuary yard.

  • If attracting pollinators is the goal, there isn’t a better native insect magnet than goldenrod. In addition to native and European honeybees, goldenrod attracts an extensive list of insects including an amazing variety of moth, butterfly, beetle, beneficial wasp, leaf hopper, midge, and fly species. It’s such a high value plant that I’ve never taken a single picture of flowering goldenrod without an insect on it!

Solitary and beneficial blue-winged wasps prefer to pollinate goldenrod (solidago) and are happy to provide a natural pest control for Japanese beetles - their favorite food! This one is sharing showy goldenrod (solidago speciosa) with a native bumblebee in my yard.
  • Goldenrod is natural bird food! In my yard I’ve seen finches, sparrows, towhees and pine siskins munching on goldenrod seedheads. This is one of many reasons to let the stalks and stems of native plants overwinter.

This tall goldenrod (solidago altissima) is packed with seeds for hungry winter birds.
  • In the winter dried goldenrod plants also give cover and offer an escape route from predators for birds and small creatures.

  • Multiple sources indicate that goldenrod stems are hollow and offer natural nesting habitat for native bees and other insects. I double-checked the stems of the many goldenrod varieties growing in my yard and none of them are hollow. I think they will dry out over the winter and become hollow by spring when the nesting bees need them. I need to check this idea out with naturalists who know way more than I do...and I will update when I do.

This inside of this tall goldenrod (solidago altissima) is not hollow, but I'm guessing by the end of the winter it will be.
  • Goldenrod is a carefree, easy to grow native plant. Some varieties are more vigorous than others so it may not the best plant for more structured gardens. I plant the assertive rhizomatous root varieties such as tall goldenrod (solidago altissima) in my right-of-way-strip and along the edges of my planting areas. The more polite clumping varieties such as wreath goldenrod (Solidago caesia) or showy goldenrod (solidago speciosa) play better with other native plants and are allowed throughout my yard.

I let rhizomatous goldenrods like this early goldenrod (solidago juncea) and other carefree plants like black-eyed susans (rudbeckia) grow in my right of way strip where their assertive growing habit is needed.
  • Goldenrod has a long blooming season and having multiple varieties will extend the time golden yellow blossoms grace your yard. Some goldenrods bloom up until the first frost, giving native insects that last bit of food necessary before winter.

A beneficial non-aggressive four-toothed mason wasp fills up on nectar from a late blooming showy goldenrod (solidago speciosa). The eggs of this solitary wasp will overwinter as larvae.
  • Goldenrod’s value was recognized over a hundred years ago as the state flower of Nebraska. in 1926 Kentucky did the same. Anise scented sweet goldenrod (solidago odora) is the state herb of Delaware - one of only two of states that even have a state herb. Solidago altissima (which I think is now a variety of canadensis) is the state wildflower of South Carolina

  • Goldenrod has a long history as a valued medicinal plant for Native Americans and early settlers. Solidago means “make whole” in Latin because of its medicinal properties.

Any goldenrod added to your landscape will be nurturing nature with essential biodiversity. Start some by seed now or buy plants in early spring. If you already have goldenrod, trade with your native plant friends and add another variety to your landscape. You can never have enough!


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