Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Goldenrods: Fireworks in the Fall

Search

Goldenrods: Fireworks in the Fall

September 11, 2019

Goldenrods burst into sunny bloom as the days grow shorter, saving their fireworks for the season when asters and jewelweed grow riotously here in the Northeast.

There are many dozens of species within the genus Solidago, which includes plants that bloom in conditions ranging from full sun on sandy and salty shorelines, to shaded and dry woodlands. Most goldenrods tolerate poor soil. Their tiny yellow flowers are born in clusters, and are loved by pollinators. Some species are very good eating for humans, too.

Read on to learn more about these cheery, low maintenance and biodiversity-boosting perennials—and for my recipe for a goldenrod marinade for grilled meats.

Photography by Marie Viljoen.

I have had more than one tense conversation with someone who is absolutely convinced that goldenrod is ragweed (Ambrosia species) or that it causes seasonal allergies.
Above: I have had more than one tense conversation with someone who is absolutely convinced that goldenrod is ragweed (Ambrosia species) or that it causes seasonal allergies.

A quick image search on Google includes pictures of goldenrod illustrating articles that confidently call it ragweed. While both plants belong to the Asteraceae family, goldenrod produces far less pollen than ragweed. Goldenrod’s pollen is also heavier as it is insect-pollinated, while ragweed relies on wind dispersal, with a finer (and more irritating) payload, as a consequence.  But because its bright yellow flowers are so conspicuous at the time when ragweed’s tiny and demure blooms open sneakily, goldenrod is often blamed.

The beauty of a wide range of species to draw from is that there is a goldenrod for every plant palette.
Above: The beauty of a wide range of species to draw from is that there is a goldenrod for every plant palette.

Larger species’ breezy habits and rhizomatous spreading tendencies make goldenrods a good choice for wild gardens and meadows. But I have found that even statuesque S. canadensis grows well in roomy, well-drained pots (16 inches or more in diameter), as long the plants are divided every few years. This is a native perennial that keeps on giving.

Massed plantings of compact creeping goldenrod (S. sphacelata) are effective paired with loose grasses and a beach-style deck.
Above: Massed plantings of compact creeping goldenrod (S. sphacelata) are effective paired with loose grasses and a beach-style deck.
The flower clusters of S. rigida top tall and predictably stiff stalks.
Above: The flower clusters of S. rigida top tall and predictably stiff stalks.

All goldenrod plants produce seed loved by birds, but in this species a built-in perch makes it a good choice for feeding migrants en route south.

While S. odora (sweet goldenrod) is well known by herbalists and foragers, my new favorite edible fall plant is S. nemoralis (gray goldenrod), which I discovered by chance on an early fall ramble.
Above: While S. odora (sweet goldenrod) is well known by herbalists and foragers, my new favorite edible fall plant is S. nemoralis (gray goldenrod), which I discovered by chance on an early fall ramble.

Its foliage and flowers are intensely scented, with strong anise notes. Young leaves of all goldenrods can be eaten raw or cooked (older they are too fibrous), but these two species are flavorful and aromatic.

The flowers of gray goldenrod are easy to collect: simply strip them from the cut stalk, and collect in a small bag or bowl. They can be used fresh or as a dried herb. The later green and ripe seeds also have very interesting food potential.
Above: The flowers of gray goldenrod are easy to collect: simply strip them from the cut stalk, and collect in a small bag or bowl. They can be used fresh or as a dried herb. The later green and ripe seeds also have very interesting food potential.

Goldenrod rub for lamb - by Marie Viljoen

Goldenrod Marinade for Grilled Meats

This a spectacularly pretty rub for a butterflied lamb or a spatchcocked chicken, cooked over glowing coals.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1.5 cups gray or sweet goldenrod flowers
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and massage into the lamb or chicken. Allow to marinate for at least an hour, and optimally, 12, before cooking.

N.B.: For more of Marie’s autumn recipes, see:

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

From our network