Goldenrods

Solidago species (over 20 species in Missouri)
Family

Asteraceae (daisies)

Description

Goldenrod stems are slender and can be singular or several; usually erect. Blooms June through December, depending on species. Flowers are in golden clusters spiraling or alternating along the upper portion of stems or branching near the top into smaller, flower-bearing branchlets. Each yellow (rarely white) “flower” is a tiny composite, structurally similar to a daisy or sunflower. Leaves are alternate along the stem and are usually linear (very narrow, like grass) or lance-shaped, and usually with a pointed tip. The higher on the stalk, the smaller the leaves.

There are more than 20 species of goldenrods in Missouri. Sometimes they’re a little hard to identify to species. As a group, however, the goldenrods are common and nearly unmistakable.

Size

Height: commonly to about 3–4 feet.

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Photo of unidentified goldenrod plant with flowers
Goldenrod (Species Unidentified)

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Photo of Ozark goldenrod, or cliff goldenrod, plant with flowers
Ozark Goldenrod (Cliff Goldenrod)

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Photo of elm-leaved goldenrod plant with flowers
Elm-Leaved Goldenrod

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image of Bald-faced Hornet on Goldenrod
Bald-Faced Hornet Foraging on Goldenrod
Bald-faced hornets are black with white or ivory-colored markings. They build large, rounded, papery, gray nests, usually in trees.

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Photo of goldenrod flower clusters with bumble bee
Goldenrod and Bumble Bee
Goldenrods are a strong contributor to the beautiful fall color we have in Missouri.

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Photo of a female whitebanded crab spider on goldenrod flower clusters.
Whitebanded Crab Spider
Whitebanded crab spiders lurk among yellow or white flowers in prairies, flower fields, and mixed grasslands.
Habitat and conservation

Found in a variety of habitats, depending on the species. Most are associated with prairies, meadows, openings in woods, and other sunny places. Some species are cultivated for ornamental use and are available at plant nurseries. Rubber can be made from the sap. A number of states have adopted goldenrods as their official flower.

image of Goldenrods Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide. Different species are found more or less commonly in different parts of the state.

Status

From common to scattered to uncommon, depending on species.

Human connections

Because goldenrods bloom showily about the same time as wind-pollinated ragweeds and pigweeds, goldenrods are often blamed for hay fever. But goldenrods have sticky pollen carried by insects and are not the culprits! Many are grown as ornamentals. Native Americans used the plants medicinally.

Ecosystem connections

Many insects lay eggs on goldenrods — in fact, the plant is a miniature habitat for a group of species. Moth larvae grow inside the stems, creating galls, which are plundered by parasitic wasps, which lay their eggs on the moth larvae. Some woodpeckers also eat the larvae at the centers of the galls.