When I was growing up, after sneezing, my German-American Father would say Gesundheit! (meaning health in German). I sneeze frequently this time of year, thanks to allergies. You can ask my co-workers; I have the loudest sneeze in the office (thanks to my vocal training perhaps…) Needless to say there are many shouts of Gesundheit in our office this time of year!
Goldenrod pollen causes our allergies??
Many lay the blame for our end of summer allergies on the ubiquitous masses of golden hued Canada goldenrod popping up everywhere in the landscape this time of year. The clouds of pollen in the air…sort of like “pollen smog”..causing the sneezing, snuffling and runny noses…. must be the fault of the Goldenrod, right? WRONG! The Culprit? Ragweed!
I feel like I need an image of this plant in a striped jumpsuit holding a number…yeah, a “mug shot” of this plant….so here you are..concrete evidence and the culprit is..Ragweed!
There it was, lurking…hardly noticed next to the beautiful bright yellowness of the goldenrod, the typical annual Ragweed popping up in the disturbed soils along the roadway. This rather nondescript, raggedy looking plant, often, adjacent to their showy Asteracae family cousins. Ragweed-which is wind pollinated, is happily pouring out the pollen in their quest to pollinate in their brief life in summer.. and when they do…achoo! Little did we know…(my nose is itching as I type this) that our allergy woes could be blamed on Ragweed. And to think that for many years Goldenrod has taken the fall.
Goldenrod pollen does not travel in the air at all. Its pollen must travel on the tiny feet of insects and bees. My stand of Showy Goldenrod was just covered in bumblebees the other day, collecting pollen on their wings and feet in the last September sunshine. Bees gather up the pollen to fly off to their hives; the pollen does not fly in the air as Ragweed and many plants.
Canada Goldenrod-Solidago canadensis (which we do not sell!!) is a most prolific (and invasive) native plant, that we work hard to eliminate from our prairies and gardens. There are dozens of well behaved native Goldenrods that we do offer, which provide color well into October, including Ohio Goldenrod-Solidago ohioensis, Showy Goldenrod-Solidago speciosa and Stiff Goldenrod-Solidago rigida that are happy in full sun. Delicate shade loving specimens including Zig Zag Goldenrod-Solidago flexicaulis, Anise Scented Goldenrod-Solidago odora add a splash of color in a woodland garden. Goldenrods provide an invaluable shot of late season nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies including:
- Clouded sulphur
- American small copper
- Gray hairstreak
- Some butterfly larvae deposited on goldenrod forms a gall that Woodpeckers feast on the insect in the center of the gall providing valuable protein for the birds in winter.
Revelation! A new light can now be shed on the beauty and value of native well-behaved Goldenrods in our gardens and prairies. We can be grateful that the Goldenrod plants in our gardens are not contributing to our allergies but providing valuable habitat for butterflies, pollinators and birds. I for one am going to be working on eliminating Ragweed from along the road in front of our farm, and working at planting our No Mow Lawn seed and more native goldenrod. I can now say Gesundheit to friends that sneeze and then proclaim “plant more goldenrod in good health”!