The goldenrod is the graceful denizen of the grasslands that raises its golden plumes in the late summer. There are more than fifty species native to the Americas and several species native to Europe as well. All total, nearly 100 species have been identified. They are perennials with showy yellow flower clusters that enjoy lots of sunshine, though many can tolerate a bit of shade. Goldenrod has earned its place in the garden, particularly those looking to attract wildlife.
1 Goldenrod has a reputation for causing hay fever, but allergies are rarely caused by insect-pollinated plants, as their pollen is too big to get into your respiratory system. More inconspicuous wind-pollinated plants tend to be the problem. Ragweed has inconspicuous green flowers that bloom right about the time goldenrod does and it spreads its pollen on the wind so you can inhale it and sneeze.
Common and folk names for goldenrod –
Aaron’s rod, blue mountain tea, Goldruthe, Gonea tea, Solidago, Vergd’Or, Wound weed, woundwort, Bohea tea
- Solidago virgaurea – European goldenrod or woundwort – was used for healing in Europe and the Middle East. It is about 2-3 feet tall with a plume of yellow ray flowers covering the top half of the stem from late summer through autumn. It can be found in woodlands, ditches, dunes and rocky areas. buy seeds online
- Solidago altissima – Tall goldenrod or late goldenrod – is a Native American species that can reach more than four feet in height. It has toothed leaves that are rough on to the touch on the top and downy on the bottom. It spreads by rhizome and often grows in colonies providing cover for small animals and birds. buy seeds online
- Solidago canadensis – Canada goldenrod – Is a very similar species to S. altimissa so much so that some consider S. altimissa to be a variety of S. canadensis rather than a distinct species. Canada goldenrod has shorter floral bracts than tall goldenrod. This is a foundation plant that quickly colonizes disturbed areas but does not like shade. Although it is a beloved wildflower in North America, Canada goldenrod is considered an invasive species in parts of Europe and Asia. Canada goldenrod has an allelopathic (suppresses growth) effect on some plants, including Sugar maple. buy seeds online
- Solidago gigantea – giant goldenrod, smooth goldenrod, early goldenrod – is the largest of the goldenrods and the state flower of both Kentucky and Nebraska. It can grow up to six feet tall and is not as hairy as many of its cousins.
- Solidago rigida or Oligoneuron rigidum – Stiff goldenrod – Is native to the Midwest and Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. It grows to 2 to five feet tall and is one of the more popular goldenrods for the garden. buy seeds online
- Solidago odora – Sweet goldenrod, anise-scented goldenrod, fragrant goldenrod – is native to North America and was used for medicine by Native Americans. Sweet goldenrod is the state flower of Delaware. buy seed online
- Solidago bicolor – silverrod, white goldenrod – is a goldenrod species native to the Americas that sports white flowers instead of yellow and they appear in the leaf axils instead of in clusters at the top. This is also a rather spindly plant compared to its fellows.
- Solidago caesia – wreath goldenrod, blue-stemmed goldenrod – is another interesting variety with its yellow flowers appearing in the axils rather than in usual terminal clusters. It has a slender, dark-colored stem.buy seed online
- Solidago speciosa – showy goldenrod – is one of the most attractive of the species with very showy yellow flowers. It is popular with gardeners as it is not only pretty, but pretty unkillable. buy seeds online
Goldenrod History and Folklore
Solidago comes from the Latin word soldare “to make whole” (like you do with a soldering iron)
The tires on Thomas Edison’s Model T Ford were made of goldenrod. Goldenrod contains about 7% rubber naturally and through experimentation fertilizer and cultivation, Edison produced a six foot tall goldenrod that contained 12% rubber. Henry Ford teamed up with Edison, Harvey Firestone and George Washington Carver to take these experiments further into production and it seemed like it was going to work out, but synthetic rubber appeared on the scene and the goldenrod project was dropped. S. leavenworthii contains the most rubber out of all the goldenrods. (You can visit the laboratory where these experiments took place in Florida)
There are many types of goldenrod and identifying the specific type you are looking for can be difficult.
Goldenrod can be found in sunny meadows and forest edges with poor, sandy soil.
Goldenrod in the Garden
2Goldenrod is a must for any garden planted to encourage wildlife. Goldenrod is a primary source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies as well as a late-season snack for numerous other species. Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, flies and beetles enjoy the nectar and the larvae of many species eat the leaves. The goldenrod gall fly and the goldenrod crab spider also make the goldenrod their home. Eastern goldfinch and swamp sparrow eat goldenrod seeds and many animals take shelter in goldenrod stands. Deer, rabbits and muskrats will dine on goldenrod.
Several varieties of goldenrod have entered the garden trade and improved cultivars of these may also be available. If goldenrod grows wild near you, feel free to visit a stand in the late autumn and harvest some of the seeds before they blow away to plant in your own garden.
Goldenrod is suitable for wildflower gardens, wildlife gardens, butterfly gardens, bee gardens, cottage gardens, faerie gardens and herb gardens planted in full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil. It does not like boggy situations or shade, but isn’t fussy otherwise. You’ll want to provide some shelter from the wind for the taller species or they could end up horizontal. It won’t do the plants any harm, but it’ll ruin the big bold effect you might be going for.
Scatter your goldenrod seed on your cleared and prepared soil and cover them very lightly with a thin layer of soil. I would plant them in the autumn or stratify them in your freezer for a few weeks and then soak them in cold water before planting. Water them very lightly so as not to wash the seeds away, but water them frequently until they are established. Once the seedlings appear, you’ll want to thin them to about 12 inches apart.
Goldenrod will spread by rhizomes and also via seeds which are dispersed on the wind in cute fuzzy parachutes. They can become very invasive and not everyone considers them desirable so it’s a good idea to cut your goldenrod flowers as they start to darken and fade before they go to seed to prevent excessive spreading.
Your goldenrods will likely form a clump or colony and you will need to divide it every few years to keep the plants healthy and strong. Your goldenrods won’t need fertilizer, they do very well in poor soils.
If you would like to harvest your goldenrod flowers for dried floral arrangements or to make tea, simply cut them the day the buds open up right after the dew has dried and hang them upside down in a warm place with good ventilation out of the sun.
Culinary uses for Goldenrod
Goldenrod leaves and flowers make a pleasant tea. Sweet goldenrod has a nice anise-like flavor.
The entire plant is edible and can be cooked as a vegetable, but there are similar plants that are toxic, so be very careful with your identification.
Healing Uses for Goldenrod
Solidago virgaurea or European goldenrod flowers may be gathered, dried and used in a tisane alone or in combination with bedstraw and dead nettle to flush out the kidneys and bladder and to help pass stones. The tea can also be taken as a general anti-inflammatory and to relieve congestion. A tincture or decoction of the leaves and flowers can also be used to wash wounds to prevent infection and speed healing. It can also be used to fight fungal and yeast infections. It can be used as a mouthwash or douche if needed.
Solidago altissima or Tall goldenrod and Solidago canadensis Candada goldenrod flowers were used as a tea by Native Americans to relieve cramps and for general anti-inflammatory purposes. The leaves may be chewed to relieve sore throat and other mouth sores and the root to relieve a toothache.
Magickal Uses for Goldenrod
The sudden appearance of goldenrod near your front door indicates that a stroke of good fortune is on its way. Goldenrod flowers can be used in wealth spells and money drawing sachets and planted on your property or placed in a vase inside your home to attract wealth and good fortune.
Goldenrod can be used for dowsing. Simply concentrate on what you’re looking for while holding a goldenrod in your hand. It will nod in the direction of the hidden object, or treasure! It will also point you in the direction of your true love.
If you wear or carry goldenrod for a day, the next day you will cross paths with your true love. Give him or her some goldenrod tea to seal the deal. But not just before you hop into bed, because goldenrod is a diuretic.
Dried leaves and flowers can be burned to enhance spells for drawing love and to enhance your intuition when performing any sort of divination.
Goldenrod can be used to aid in the grieving process.
Goldenrod Magickal Correspondences
Household Uses for Goldenrod
Goldenrod flower heads dry well and look lovely in dried and fresh floral arrangements.
Although goldenrod is generally considered non-toxic, some people have allergic reactions to it. Proceed with caution. It is considered safe and even nutritious for browsing and grazing animals. Excessive use of goldenrod can lead to a loss of electrolytes through excess urination.
Rayless goldenrod Haplopappus heterophyllus is not a goldenrod but resembles one and is quite poisonous to humans and animals. Its common name is jimmyweed. It grows in the dry ranges of the Western and Southern United States. It resembles goldenrod, but if you look closely you will find that the flowers are different. Jimmyweed does not have rays, or large outer “petals”.
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