The land is awash with sprays of amber, lemon, and yellow from the wild goldenrods that proliferate in meadows, roadsides, forest edges, and vacant lots this time of year. These misunderstood, underappreciated, and spectacularly diverse plants have been lumped into the common category of “goldenrod” and unfairly blamed for hay fever. The showy colorful blooms with their heavy, sticky pollen are obviously designed to attract insect pollinators, while the real culprit—common ragweed—is wind pollinated and blooms at the same time. A-choo!
Generations of us have long-dismissed goldenrods as “weeds,” but as the late poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox sagely pointed out: “a weed is but an unloved flower.” While it’s true that farmers continue to battle Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis; an aggressive colonizer of agricultural fields), this is only one species out of 25 native goldenrods in New England. From shade to sun, wooded edges to meadows, they each have their own niche on the landscape.
Pay attention. This next fact is an important one.
Goldenrods are the top-ranked herbaceous plants for biodiversity and provide important late-season nectar and pollen for our declining pollinators.
I’d say it’s high time we give these goldenrods some love, wouldn’t you?! I’ll start…
In this collage are three species of goldenrod growing wild in my “habitat garden” (i.e., my intentionally wild and naturalistic yard). I just allowed these plants to grow up, show their flowers, and feed the bees, butterflies, and birds. If they grow up in a place I don’t want them, I merely edit them out. This patient, intentional approach delivers huge rewards in the form of free flowers that boost biodiversity and bring life to the landscape!
Sometimes protecting the earth can seem overwhelming. But there are things people can do in their own yard to make the world a better place for native wildlife. On her NRCM blog, Deb Perkins generously shares her 25 years of knowledge and experience with readers of this blog. The tips she provides here are just a small sampling of what she provides to clients interested in creating habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. Visit her First Light Wildlife Habitats for more information about how Deb can help you enhance your property for the benefit of native wildlife.