By Carol Davit, Missouri Prairie Foundation Executive Director
Photo of rigid goldenrod (Solidago rigida) and blue sage (Salvia azurea)
at Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Snowball Hill Prairie: Bruce Schuette.
On prairies, prairie plantings, native gardens, many old fields, and along roadsides, goldenrods are in their full glory in lower Midwest landscapes. In Missouri, there are more than 25 species of goldenrod (in the genera Solidago, Euthamia, and Oligoneuron), all in the aster or sunflower family of plants. Goldenrods are primarily native to prairies, glades, and open woodlands, with a few restricted to forests, cliffs, and fens. This means that there is a goldenrod species that is ideal for just about any kind of landscaping project.
Grow Native! advisor Scott Woodbury prepared this Top Ten Goldenrods for Gardening list, which you may find helpful in selecting goldenrods.
Cliff goldenrod (Solidago drummondii), for example, is native to cliffs and drapes over retaining and rock walls.
Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), native to prairies, savannas, and woodlands, creates showy spires of golden flowers that provide ample nectar and/or pollen for bees, migrating monarchs, and other insects.
Some goldenrods, like old field or gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), are drought tolerant and can thrive in poor soil. Note: Canada goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), is considered a “thug,” as it can completely dominate a native planting.
Because goldenrods bloom at the same time as ragweed, they are often erroneously blamed for fall allergies. Ragweed is the culprit, however, as its pollen is carried by the wind (and into your nose) whereas the relatively heavy goldenrod pollen must be transported by insects from flower to flower.
In addition to offering bountiful nectar and pollen for insects, goldenrod foliage is eaten by caterpillars of more than 100 species of butterflies and moths, making it a host plant “super food.”
Find suppliers of goldenrods and other native plants in the Grow Native! Resource Guide.