Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Goldenrod’s bad reputation

Goldenrod in the wild
Goldenrod in the wild

Goldenrod in the wild

Hello fellow readers, Goldenrod’s bad reputation is hard to turn around! Sandy from Sparta questioned a recommendation to add Solidago to her fall garden.  The common name is Goldenrod, after all, and doesn’t it cause allergies? The actual offender is Ragweed (Ambrosia ) which grows in the same cultural environment but is often unnoticed. Because Ragweed flowers are insignificant, it’s easier to recognize them by their hairy, sometimes purplish stems.

Goldenrod versus Ragweed

Both plants bloom from late summer to early fall, but Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers loved by songbirds and other pollinators, including butterflies. On the other hand, Ragweed has small, un-showy greenish-yellow flowers that release profuse amounts of pollen as it is pollinated by wind. In comparison, Goldenrods produce far less pollen because they are both wind and insect-pollinated.   

Then there’s Mugwort, another allergy-causing invader.
Ragweed / A. artemisiifolia

“Nasty” Ragweed / A. artemisiifolia

It turns out 75 percent of those allergic to pollen-producing plants are also allergic to Ragweed. Equally to blame is the silvery, chrysanthemum-looking plumy colonies of the invasive Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), also known as Common Wormwood (even the name sounds nasty).  It’s just as high on the allergy charts as Ragweed and blooms at the same time. 

Mugwort / Artemisia vulgaris

“Ugly” Mugwort / Artemisia vulgaris

With many Goldenrod cultivars and hybrids to choose from, no garden should be without these deer-resistant fall flowering butterfly attractors. A few of my favorites include; Solidago ‘Little Lemon’ growing 8-12″ tall – one of the cutest, most compact Goldenrod. Then there’s S.rugosa ‘Fireworks’, which rises to 3-4’ with graceful long arching golden sprays that are great in arrangements. Finally, S. sphacelata ‘Golden Fleece’ is about 18” high with semi-evergreen foliage that, when planted in masses, can form a ground cover that keeps weeds at bay.

So please enjoy Goldenrod as they are welcomed even in conservation-restoration areas.  It’s Mugwort and Ragweed that deserves the bad name. Achoo! Garden dilemmas?

Column Updated 5/5/21

Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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