You have heard it said before, haven’t you, that hay fever is caused by Goldenrod? When I was young, my doctor used to say it! And I said it until I began to learn about native plants.
The pollen from goldenrod, like pine pollen, is too large to travel in the air to your nose. However, I guess if you put your nose on goldenrod and breathe in, it could get there. There was an article in Southern Living magazine last year by The Grumpy Gardener, Steve Bender, declaring it a myth that goldenrod causes hay fever.
You will find goldenrod at the Master Gardener Mother’s Day plant sale. I saw someone pick up a potted plant, read that it was goldenrod, and hastily return the pot to the display, with the comment. “I can’t believe they are selling goldenrod!” I tried to clear up the misconception, but I am not sure it worked because the buyer left without any goldenrod.
Butterflies and bees love goldenrod and birds eat its seeds. It is a drought tolerant perennial, grows in full sun or dappled shade, and can be used in borders, naturalized areas, prairies or meadows. It provides a great blast of fall color to the landscape. You’ll notice its bright golden spikes growing along roadsides and trails in September through November.
Goldenrod is a member of the Aster family. There are 10 types (species) of goldenrod native to the Southeast. Some are aggressive and can take over an area. Others are well-behaved. Five species are listed in the UGA Cooperative Extension publication, Native Plants for Georgia, as worthy of using in cultivated gardens. Photographs of all the described and recommended goldenrods are in the publication. They may be viewed at www.caes.uga.edu. If you are interested in purchasing goldenrod for your garden, please check the scientific name in parentheses to be sure you get one of the five recommended types for Georgia.
Blue-stemmed goldenrod (Solidago caseia) prefers morning sun and afternoon shade, and moist soil. Use it in native plant gardens, meadows, wildlife habitats, perennial borders and woodland gardens. Gray goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) prefers full sun and needs moisture. Grow in flood plains where moisture is available. Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. It can become aggressive in moist soil. Grow in naturalized areas. Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora) prefers sun and moist, acidic soil. It adapts to poor sites and is an excellent choice for wildlife habitats or fragrance gardens. Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soils. It is one of the easiest goldenrods to cultivate. Use it in perennial borders, wildlife gardens, flood plains and meadows.
Under no circumstances would I recommend planting ragweed, which has many characteristics of goldenrod: ragweed is in the Aster family and it has the same growing requirements. It is a perennial that blooms from September to November. The first difference is minor – instead of yellow flowers, its spikes are green. Most dramatically, unlike goldenrod, it is estimated that one ragweed plant can produce up to a billion pollen grains that are airborne and a hazard to hay fever sufferers.