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November 2010 cover image Kiss Me!

Flora Fact: Golden Finale

Goldenrod provides the last floral show of the season.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

See those prolific displays of dazzling yellow flowers? If you’re blaming goldenrod blooms for your runny nose and hay fever, please apologize. Then go vent at your neighborhood ragweed. There’s your culprit.

In Texas, more than 20 species of goldenrod occur. From August into November, these perennial favorites wrap up the state’s annual wildflower show with tall, wavy plumes of mustard yellow that dress up roadsides and open fields. They also attract oodles of pollinating insects, including monarchs headed south to Mexico. (Ragweed, on the other hand, uses wind, not insects, to carry the profuse pollen of its drab flower spikes.)

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Some arthropods that visit goldenrods are named after their host, such as the goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus), goldenrod crab spider (Misumena vatia) and goldenrod hooded owlet (Cucullia asteroides). Within goldenrod stems, the larvae of the goldenrod gall moth (Epiblema scudderiana) and goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) form protective cavities that swell into abnormal growths called galls.

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Since medieval times, humans have concocted teas and remedies from the roots, leaves and stems of goldenrod. Artisans use the plant to create brilliant yellow and gold dyes for wool. In a habitat or garden, goldenrods spread by underground roots and can grow 4 feet tall and higher. (Psst, don’t forget about that apology!)

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