Take a ride in the countryside anywhere but in those areas where every plant has been eliminated to make way for pavement or crops and you will see some fields of gold –
That’s the gold of goldenrod, a group of many species: Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide lists 30 species; Peterson’s A Field Guide to Wildflowers adds one for a total of 31 species; Britton and Brown’s An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada increases the number to 62 and Gray’s Manual of Botany tops the list with 69 species.
Whatever the actual number of species it’s a confusing group, but one that brightens late summer and early fall days. However, one member of the genus isn’t gold at all; it’s silver-rod with white flowers –
And not all goldenrods prefer to grow in the sunlight; some, like this blue-stemmed goldenrod, are woodland plants –
But the vast majority of goldenrods are plants of open fields –
In those fields the flowers attract a host of insects; butterflies –
|Great Spangled Fritillary|
And beetles –
Wasps and bees –
|Northern Paper Wasp|
And flies and moths -
The goldenrods unjustly stand accused of causing hay fever in allergy sufferers. But their heavy pollen doesn’t carry far in the breeze and they rely on insects for pollination. The real culprits responsible for hay fever are the ragweeds which bloom at the same time, in the same habitats and have light wind-borne pollen.
So the next time you pass a field of gold, admire the view –
And take a look at the insects on the flowers, for soon, as colder weather arrives, they will be gone .