Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are frequently, though unjustly, maligned late season wildflowers. They are often blamed for fall pollen allergies instead of the actual culprit, ragweed (Ambrosia spp.)— Goldenrod pollen is sticky and not released into the air. Some gardeners complain about their tendency to crowd out other plants and act like weeds, but aggressiveness varies with the species in question and growing condition. With 25 species of Solidago (and more in closely related genera) found in New England, there are plenty of less intrusive options. Sweet Goldenrod (Solidago odora)—an attractively clumping, slow spreading species—has strongly anise-scented leaves that can be used for teas and flavorings.
The ecological value of Goldenrods cannot be overstated. They produce copious amounts of pollen and nectar; you can spot countless varieties of butterflies, bees, wasps, flies, and beetles visiting the flowers. Adult Monarch butterflies rely on Goldenrod nectar during their southward migration as a primary food source. The leaves of Goldenrods feed the caterpillars of dozens of butterfly and moth species. The seeds are harvested by meadow voles and birds, who also collect the abundant insects on Goldenrod colonies to feed their young. Consider growing a patch of Goldenrods somewhere in your yard— they’re resilient and low maintenance, and your local wildlife will thank you!