I love this time of year. The relentless oppression of summer heat is giving way to the gentle hand of autumn. There are many signs that we are entering the cooler season. For me, one of those signs is the appearance of the bright yellow heads of the Goldenrod that are igniting the sides of the highways now.
Goldenrod is gorgeous native plant. You’d never know it was there and then suddenly, BAM! It comes up with the season showing off its golden colors for a short while. It comes in a variety of sizes, some six feet tall or more. However, some people never realize its beauty because of a simple case of mistaken identity.
On more than one occasion, I have heard a person identify Goldenrod as ragweed, a plant that is notorious for causing seasonal allergies. When considering the habit of these plants, it is understandable why a person who suffers from allergies might be quick to point to Goldenrod as the bane of their existence through itchy, watery eyes.
Both plants tend to appear around the same time. As individuals who have allergies to ragweed start to sense its presence, they will also see Goldenrod plant, which is much more showy and easy to distinguish. Therefore, they may simply associate the plant with the bright yellow flowers as a pollen source that is causing them discomfort.
While it is true that Goldenrod has pollen, a closer investigation reveals that Goldenrod is innocent. Like many plants with bright flowers, these colors are often utilized to attract pollinators, such as bees. This is especially true of Goldenrod, whose pollen is generally too heavy and sticky to be carried by the wind. It relies heavily on pollinators for its reproduction. It is for this reason that Goldenrod cannot be held responsible for the seasonal allergies that result from pollen in the wind.
Ragweed, on the other hand utilizes dust-like pollen, a common strategy among less showy plants like grass and pine trees. Of course, there is always looking at the plants themselves. They are very different and the bright yellow heads of the Goldenrod plant immediately divulge their identity. It is not ragweed.
With that being said, Goldenrod is a beautiful, seasonal plant that should be welcomed with the cool autumn breezes that we experience at this time of year in the southeast. Being a native plant, it is super useful for local pollinators and encourages visits from bees, butterflies and other wonderful creations.