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Solidago

 

Goldenrod

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae (from Stearn’s Botanical Latin)
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassAsteridaeA large class that encompasses asters
OrderAsteralesFlowering plants with a central disk flower and surrounding petals, like daisies
FamilyAsteraceaeThe aster family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers; from the Greek ἀστήρ, “star,” for the star-shaped flowers
GenusSolidagoFrom Latin solido, “to make whole or heal,” because it was believed these species had healing properties

About plant names...

Of the hundred or so species of goldenrod known to exist, most are North American natives, with a few from South and Central America, and Eurasia. The genus Solidago means “to make whole or heal,” referring to the medicinal properties these plants were believed to possess—properties that have not been confirmed by medical studies. Goldenrods are perennials, dying back to the ground in the winter. They are fast-growing, robust plants, adapted to a wide range of habitats. See also Arieh Tal’s Asters and Goldenrods of New England.

Identification: Goldenrod is so common in New England that it tends to be overlooked, like dandelions, by amateur botanists. Even after I started paying closer attention, it took another year before I began noticing the differences among the species. At first glance, they’re all more or less the same: stiff upright plants 24-48" (60-121 cm) high, crowned with dense brilliant yellow flowerheads. Actually, they’re often hard to identify even when you do start paying close attention. The goldenrod photos on this page haven’t yet been identified.

Medical: Goldenrod is frequently blamed as the cause of hay fever, but this is not the case: the real culprit is ragweed. A few people develop a contact dermatitis from handling goldenrods, though.

Online References:

Asters and Goldenrods of New England on www.nttlphoto.com

References:

Clemants, Steven; Gracie, Carol, Wildflowers in the Field and Forest, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 154

Here is a comparison table of some of the species. Features that may be useful in identifying a particular species are underlined:
 

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/18/2009 · Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME
≈ 8 × 5" (19 × 13 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/18/2009 · Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME
≈ 20 × 13" (49 × 33 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/17/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 21 × 14" (52 × 34 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/17/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 15 × 12" (38 × 30 cm) Species not yet identified

 
Solidago bicolor

Solidago caesia

Solidago canadensis
Common Name

Silverrod

Wreath Goldenrod

Canada Goldenrod
Plant Up to 3' (1 m) high. Plants are 12-36" (30-91 cm) tall, relatively small for goldenrods. Plants are 24-72" (60-182 cm) high, relatively large.
Flowers Flowers are cream-colored (or white or rarely pale yellow, not bright yellow like other Solidagos.) Plant tops may branch into several clusters of vaguely conical flowerheads. Flowers are even around each stem, not just on one side. Flowerheads appear in clusters along the stem, often with a larger cluster at the top; flowering is from August to October. Individual flowers are ⅛-¼" (4-6.3 mm) in diameter, with 1-6 ray petals and 3-6 disc florets. Flowers are even around each stem, not just on one side. Several yellow flowerheads, each 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) in length, branch sideways from the main stem, and have flowers on one side only. Individual flowers are less than ⅛" (3.2 mm) around, usually having 8-14 rays and 3-6 disk florets. Flowers bloom July to September.
Leaves Lower leaves are 2-4" (5-10 cm) long, with shallow teeth and a grayish down. Upper leaves are elliptical, with a single prominent central vein. Leaves are up to 5" (12 cm) × 1" (2.5 cm) at the base, and smaller further up the stem. They are lance-like (“lanceolate”) in shape, sometimes thickening more in the center and becoming more oval (“ovate”). Each leaf has a single prominent central vein. Leaves are lance-shaped (“lanceolate”) and sharply serrated, gray-green, mostly hairless above. They are up to 6" (15 cm) × 1" (2.5 cm) at the base, and progressively smaller up the stem.
Stem Stems are “hispido-villous”—fancy talk for “having [relatively] long and soft hairs.” Stem is purplish and may be covered with a whitish bloom. It is green when young, becoming blue-gray or purplish-gray with age. Single stems are common, though there may be a few branches. The main stem is smooth near the base.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Fields or open forests; disturbed areas. Moist woods, thickets and clearings Openings in prairies, forests, thickets, and savannas, wet or dry.
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Solidago flexicaulis

Solidago gigantea

Solidago juncea
Common Name

Zigzag Goldenrod

Smooth Goldenrod

Early Goldenrod
Plant Plants are 24-48" (60-121 cm) tall, usually unbranched, and tolerate partial sun or shade. 3-7' (91-213 cm) tall, erect, in large patches. Plants are up to 18-48" (45-121 cm) high.
Flowers Flowerhead at tip is up to 5" (12 cm) long; there are smaller racemes along the upper portion of the stem. Individual flowers are about ¼" (6.3 mm) around. Blooms from July to October. Flowerheads may be tight and roughly conical, but are often looser, composed of gently curved tiers of up to 600 small yellow flowers. Flowerheads bend to the left and right, branching heavily. They bloom from June to September. Individual flowers are less than ¼" (6.3 mm) around, with 7-12 rays.
Leaves Leaves are alternate, oval, with coarse teeth, 2-5" (5-12 cm) × 1-4" (2.5-10 cm). Leaf petioles (stems) are ¼-1½" (6.3-38 mm) long. The leaves narrow quickly at the base, leaving little “wings” on the petiole.

 

Leaves are narrow (lanceolate), ~3½" (9.1-9.7 cm) × ⅜-½" (1-1.4 cm) (roughly equal in size throughout the plant). They are pointed at both ends, alternate, sessile, with sharp teeth and three veins.
Leaves at base are sharply serrated, but leaves on the upper half of the stem usually lack serrations. They are alternate, up to 8" (20 cm) × 1½" (3.8 cm) at the base, lance-shaped (“lanceolate”) or ovate or somewhere in between, and hairless or with tiny hairs just along the margins. Leaves have a single prominent vein, rather than the three parallel veins present in some goldenrods.
Stem Stems tend to be mildly zig-zagged in shape, light green, and mostly smooth.

 

Stems are light green or pale purple, hairless, sometimes with a whitish waxy bloom.
The main stem is stiff (the species juncea means “stiff like a rush”), hairless and green or reddish, with small vertical ridges.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 3-8

Habitats   Boundaries of wetlands and shaded floodplains. Dry open woods, rocky banks, roadsides; acid soils
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Solidago nemoralis

Solidago odora

Solidago rugosa
Common Name

Gray Goldenrod

Anise-scented Goldenrod

Rough-stemmed Goldenrod
Plant Plants are 6-30" (15-76 cm) tall, relatively small. Plants are 24-60" (60-152 cm) high. Plants are up to 5' (1.5 m) tall.
Flowers Flowerheads may be narrow, or wider at the base; they are 3-10" (7.6-25 cm) long × 1-4" (2.5-10 cm) wide. Individal flowers are less than ¼" (6.3 mm) around, with 4-9 ray flowers and 3-10 disk florets. Flowerheads are roughly tubular in shape. Blooms July through October. A pyramid-shaped group of panicles at the top of the plant, with multiple flowering branches of upward-pointing flowers. (Younger plants may have only a single spike.) Flowers are bright yellow, about ¼" (6.3 mm) around, with a small yellow disk surrounded by 5-10 rays. Flowers appear from July to October.
Leaves Gray-green, alternate, lance-like (“lanceolate”) or sometimes oval, up to 4" (10 cm) × ¾" (1.9 cm), becoming smaller higher on the stem. They are serrated or sometimes smooth. When the serrations are present, they are “crenate-serrate”—sometimes rounded. At the base of each leaf there are often two side-pointing smaller leaflets (“wings”). Fine hairs on the leaves make them feel somewhat rough, like fine sandpaper. Dark green, with smooth or hairy edges and pointed tips, 1½-4" (4-11 cm) long. They are alternate, sessile, and have a single main vein. Crushed leaves release a scent of anise (licorice). These lack the rosette of leaves that are at the base of many goldenrods. Leaves are narrow closer to the base of the plant, widening and becoming more oval-shaped toward the top, and usually quite wrinkled in appearance. They are up to 2½" (7 cm) × ¾" (2 cm), and attach directly to the stem (“sessile”).
Stem The main stem is reddish or gray-green, with short grayish-white hairs. Hairy. Rough-stemmed goldenrods are named for their hairy, which are light green to brownish red.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 4-9

Habitats Dry fields, dry open woods Savannas, pinelands, dry woods. Fields and thickets, in damp ground
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Solidago sempervirens

Solidago speciosa

Solidago squarrosa
Common Name

Seaside Goldenrod

Showy Goldenrod

Stout Goldenrod
Plant Seaside goldenrod’s are 24-108" (60-274 cm) tall, relatively tall. Plants are 24-72" (60-182 cm) high. 18-60" (45-152 cm) high.
Flowers Flowerheads are dense yellow side-facing panicles 2-5" (5-12 cm) across, with flowers only along the upward-pointing side. Flowers are about ¼-⅜" (6.3-9.5 mm) around, somewhat larger than those of most goldenrods, with 8-10 rays. They appear from October to November, and sometimes in the spring. Flowerheads are erect and upright, conical in shape, up to 12" (30 cm) at the top of the stem, with tight clusters of tiny yellow flowers. Each flower is about ¼" (6.3 mm) across, and has 4-10 petals (ray florets) and a tiny central disk flower. Flowers appear from August to October. In long clusters at top of each stem. Individual flowers closely attached to stem, with 10-16 rays each. At the base of each flower are green back-curved tiny leaflets (bracts), a key identifying feature.
Leaves Fleshy, waxy, gray-green, salt-adapted leaves—a major identifying feature. Leaves have smooth edges, and are oblong or lance-shaped. They alternate along the stem, are 2-3" (5-7.6 cm) long × ½" (1.3 cm) wide, and attach directly to the stem (“sessile”); leaves at the base are 3-5" (7.6-12 cm) long. Leaves are 6" (15 cm) × 1½" (3.8 cm), long and narrow (“lanceolate”) or somewhat wider at the center (“narrowly ovate”). Upper leaves are much smaller. Leaf edges are usually smooth and leaves are hairless. Egg-shaped, and toothed. They usually form a rosette of large leaves at the base. Leaves along the upper stem are small and narrow.
Stem Somewhat woody. Usually a single, unbranched stem that is usually reddish, sometimes green. Stiffly erect, often red.
Range/ Zones

USDA Zones: 3-11

USDA Zones: 3-8

Habitats Sandy salt marsh soils Openings in prairies, forests, thickets, and savannas, slightly wet or dry. Open fields; dry forests and woodlands
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

 
Solidago uliginosa

Euthamia caroliniana

Euthamia graminifolia
Common Name

Bog Goldenrod

Slender Goldentop

Flat-top Goldentop
Plant Plants are perennials, and are 24-60" (60-152 cm) high. 10-39" (25-100 cm) in height. 12-48" (30-121 cm) tall, often branched only slightly, sometimes heavily-branched and bushy.
Flowers Yellow flowerheads up to 7" (17 cm) long, form a tight conical cluster at the top. Individual flowers have 1-8 petals. Flowerheads are flat-topped or rounded, often multiply layered, with tiny yellow flowers, blooming from Aug-Dec. Large, flat-topped or umbrella-shaped yellow flower clusters. Each flower in the flowerhead is ⅛" (3.2 mm) across. Flowerheads tend to bloom gradually, not all at once, emitting a modest, sweet scent.
Leaves Leaves at base of are large—up to 12" (30 cm) long and about ⅛ as wide, and finely toothed. Leaves are smooth on top. The base of each leaf is clasping.

 

Linear, like grass blades, abundant, typically bent downward or backward (deflexed). ⅞-2½" (2.4-7 cm) long and ¹/₃₂-⅛" (1-3 mm) wide, (up to ⅛" (6 mm)) and smooth. Leaves have resinous dots.
Lance-shaped leaves contain 3 veins running along the length of the vein. Sometimes there is 1 or 5 veins, depending on leaf size. Leaves are 3-6" (7.6-15 cm) × ⅛-⅝" (3.2-15 mm), resembling grass blades, and attached directly to the stem (“sessile”). Leaves have resinous dots.
Stem Stems are round, not four-sided as in some goldenrods, and smooth. Stems are branched partway up, smooth, without a waxy bluish coating (technically, glabrous or glabrate, not glaucous). Stems typically have rows of fine white hairs.
Range/ Zones

Habitats Bogs and swamps.    
Type Wild Wild Wild

 

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 8/25/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, East Pepperell, MA
≈ 7 × 9" (18 × 22 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/19/2009 · Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME
≈ 12 × 8" (31 × 20 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/3/2009 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Ayer, MA
≈ 6 × 4" (15 × 10 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 10/4/2008 · Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, MA
≈ 4 × 6" (10 × 15 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 8/1/2009 · Gordon & Kathy’s, Prospect, ME
≈ 27 × 18" (67 × 45 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

(Solidago) · 10/6/2011 · Pack Monadnock, 2200', Peterborough, NH
≈ 12 × 17" (29 × 44 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 8/1/2009 · Gordon & Kathy’s, Prospect, ME
≈ 7 × 5" (19 × 12 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/19/2009 · Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME
≈ 16 × 21" (41 × 52 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 13 Oct 2013.

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Solidago (Goldenrod)

(Solidago) · 9/11/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Groton Center, Groton, MA
≈ 5 × 3½" (13 × 9.2 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · The galls are created by a fruit fly, Eurosta solidaginis · 6/26/2012 · Nashua River Rail Trail, Dunstable, Dunstable, MA
≈ 11 × 15" (27 × 37 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 8/4/2009 · Near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, MA
≈ 4½ × 7" (11 × 17 cm) Species not yet identified

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 9/5/2010 · Nashua River Rail Trail, near Nashoba Hospital, Ayer, MA
≈ 11 × 7" (27 × 18 cm) ID is dubious

Solidago (Goldenrod)

Goldenrod (Solidago) · 8/4/2006 · Sterling Falls Gorge, Stowe, VT Species not yet identified