Saturday, September 20, 2008


Goldenrod, or Solidago, is a fascinating plant. Blooming in the short days of Indian Summer this yellow flower offers not only the last big show of flowers but it also plays host to numerous beneficial insects and butterflies.

We know from the experiments of Thomas Edison that Solidago contains a natural rubber. The tires of Edison's Ford motor car were made from goldenrod rubber. However, Edison's research, turned over to the government some 50 years ago, has never gotten beyond the experimental stage.

Goldenrod is the State Flower of both Kentucky and Nebraska, and is the State Wildflower of South Carolina. In herbal medicines it is used as a kidney tonic and the pleasant tasting tea (or infusion) is said to cure allergies.

Now don't be upset, but you are not allergic to goldenrod. (Well, I'll amend that -- you could be, but you'd have to roll in it and stick some up your nose to experience the effects). Goldenrod's pollen grains are too heavy and sticky to float far on the wind.

This is Ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, the wind-pollinated source of roughly one billion pollen grains per plant which "blooms" at the same time as goldenrod. Those unattractive green lumps are the flowers of the plant (you can click to enlarge the picture). This, and not the much maligned (insect-pollinated) goldenrod, is the source of seasonal allergies.

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