Goldenrod looks great in the garden, beneficial for deer
Published 2:05 p.m. Tuesday, September 20, 2022
By Gary R. Bachman
Mississippi State University Extension Service
One of the sights I look forward to every year is the goldenrod in bloom.
Beginning in late August and peaking around the third week of September, goldenrod seem to be at the roadside of every highway and in every natural area and field. The bright yellow masses are beautiful and I have a hard time considering goldenrod as a weed.
While I find goldenrod beautiful and welcome, many people consider it the scourge of fall allergy season. This belief is actually not true. Goldenrod is a victim of cause-and-effect thinking: If your fall allergy peaks when goldenrod is blooming all around you, then the plant must be to blame.
However, the real culprit is ragweed, which blooms at the same time. We don’t see these tiny, inconspicuous flowers, but they do produce copious amounts of tiny pollen grains that are easily blown by the wind. Ragweed pollen wreaks havoc on the allergies of thousands of people.
I’ve said many times before that many of our flowering ornamental plants are just a step or two from the ditch. Goldenrod is the perfect example of this train of thought.
Well, I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t plant the “wild type” goldenrod in my home garden because it would be a bit too invasive. Wild goldenrods are typically 4 foot tall, unbranched plants. While the flower heads arch, the plants themselves usually have a top-heavy appearance.
I’ve noticed goldenrod blooming on shorter plants along highways, but these were probably mowed in late spring.
An older variety that has excellent flowering is the Fireworks goldenrod, which grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. This plant naturally branches close to the ground, and clusters of flowers radiate in all directions from these arching branches.
When in bloom, these plants resemble yellow sparks streaming outward from exploding firecrackers.
Goldenrod selections that have shorter and denser growth forms are being studied.
I was in Tennessee to visit my parents and while visiting an independent garden center there I found a new to me great looking dwarf goldenrod named Golden Fleece.
This plant only grows to about 15 inches tall. To use the boxing analogy of “punches above your weight class,” Golden Fleece thrives on its size. From August to October, Golden Fleece bears tiny, light yellow individual flowers that are clustered at the top of overhanging panicles.
Goldenrod produces large pollen grains that insects need to transfer from flower to flower. It’s these large pollen grains that make goldenrod one of the best pollinating plants for the fall season.
Benefits to wildlife
The MSU Extension Service’s “A guide to Common Deer Forages” states that deer have a moderate to high selection preference for goldenrod, depending on the species. It also provides good cover for deer at the edge of traditional forage plots as they grow up to two meters tall. Goldenrod provides between 10.6 and 19 percent crude protein, but the average is 13.8 percent.
Ragweed could be a culprit for fall allergies but has a purpose in foraging deer. The MSU guide states that deer greatly prefer ragweed and that it produces 17.8 to 20.8 percent crude protein and an average of 19.6 percent. It is native to the United States.