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CARMEN KETRON: An ode to goldenrod
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CARMEN KETRON: An ode to goldenrod

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When you think of fall in the Pee Dee, you can always count on the immensely beautiful native fall florals to bring that warm feeling to your heart.

Now I am not talking about the leaves on the trees, as we have all resigned to live with dismal change in tree foliage each year.

The real show is the wildflowers. The warm, rich hues of fall wildflowers are something to be enamored with and remind you how important it is to keep things a little wild. In the fields and forests, along the highways and dirt road ditches, the bright yellow camphorweed and varied purple hues of ironweed are giving a spectacular show this year.

But one of the most brilliant spectacles in bloom right now is goldenrod (Solidago spp.).

With its bright golden flower clusters towering anywhere from 2 to 6 feet in the air, you have probably seen many stands of goldrenrod on your way to the pumpkin patch or glistening in the sunset as you commute home. Goldenrod is so important to our ecosystem that Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima L.) is the official South Carolina state wildflower.

There are upwards of 26 species of goldenrod, some of which have made it into the ornamental nursery trade and are starting to be incorporated into more water and pollinator concious landscape designs. Its native, low maintenanc nature leads it to have invasive tendencies occasionally if you don’t keep an eye on it.

But it is an amazing resource for a large number of bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

This time of year I have many discussions with people who believe wholeheartedly that it is a nuisance plant because of its bad reptutation. Many people often blame their late-summer allergies on these prolific flowering marvels, blaming the immense amount of yellow pollen as the culprit of their runny nose and itchy eyes.

For most people, it is actually the common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) or giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) and not the glorious goldenrod that is to blame for their unpleasant allergic reactions. These two plants bloom at the same time and often take up the same habitat, so it is a case of wrong place, wrong time.

Goldenrod’s eye-catching yellow flower releases pollen too large to move very far in the wind while ragweed’s tiny green blooms release pollen that travels farther for wind pollination, as they are not as attractive or beneficial to pollinator species to ellicit help from neighboring insects.

So when you are on your afternoon walk or driving in the car, take a look off of the side of the road and marvel at the glorious yellow blooms swaying in the wind and appreciate the absolute majesty, knowing they are a critical food source for the pollinators and they are putting on a beautiful show just for you.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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