All About the Goldenrod Weed

by AngelaJohnson

Many people think goldenrod causes fall allergies, but ragweed is actually the cause. Goldenrod's pollen is heavy and spread by insects but ragweed's pollen is spread by the wind.

Goldenrod and ragweed bloom around the same time in the fall and often grow together. Goldenrod's flowers are deep yellow, but ragweed's flowers are tiny, pale green, and blend it with its leaves. When ragweed releases its pollen, people mistakenly blame goldenrod because it's so visible.

But goldenrod's pollen is heavy and sticky and spread only by insects. Unless you put your nose right into a goldenrod plant and sniff, you shouldn't be affected by its pollen. On the other hand, ragweed's pollen is lightweight and spread by the wind.

Goldenrod is the state flower of both Kentucky and Nebraska.

Goldenrod is the state wildflower for South Carolina and Sweet Goldenrod is the state herb of Delaware.

Goldenrod is also the name of a color: defined as "a strong to vivid yellow."

I took the photographs of goldenrod and ragweed for this article. ~~~ Burntchestnut

Types of Goldenrod

There are about 130 goldenrod species in North America.

goldenrodGoldenrod plants needs full to partial sun and soil that drains well. Depending on the species, they bloom from mid to late summer or until it frosts (in cold climates).

Goldenrod is a member of the Aster family, which includes chicory, yarrow, sunflower, dandelion, black- eyes Susan and echinacea. Goldenrod plants attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects.

Most types of goldenrod grow along roadsides and in fields and pastures. This plant reseeds itself and has an underground rhizome root system. It can spread rapidly and can become an invasive plant.

If you grow wild goldenrod plants but don’t want them to spread, you can cut off the flower heads before seeds develop and use root barriers.

Photo by Burntchestnut 

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Goldenrod Attracts Bees

Goldenrod with bee
Goldenrod with bee
photo by burntchestnut

Identifying Ragweed Ragweed Causes Allergy Suffering

ragweedRagweed blooms around the same time and often in the same area as goldenrod. Ragweed
has green, lacy leaves that are silver underneath. The flowers are small, also green, and blend in with the leaves. Since it’s not a showy plant, it’s often overlooked. Once you know what it looks like, you’ll see it everywhere.

It doesn’t only grow in fields or abandoned lots. It grows along fences, in ditches, around parking lots, in gardens, and many other places. It has a deep taproot, so it can survive dry conditions. Seeds that have been in the ground for 40 years can germinate once the soil is disturbed.

Ragweed usually starts blooming in mid-August when the days become shorter. The pollen from ragweed is the primary cause of hay fever. The plant stops producing pollen when temperatures begin dropping below 60 °F.

 Photo by Burntchestnut

Hay Fever: Goldenrod(Solidago sp.) vs. Ragweed

Goldenrod is Used As A Natural Dye

goldenrod weedThe goldenrod plant grows up to six feet tall with leaves two to five inches long, and clusters of small, bright yellow flowers on top.

Goldenrod in bloom is plentiful in most parts of the country from late August until the first hard frost.  Collect goldenrod by cutting just below the flower head; don't collect any leaves and watch out for bees. 

Gather goldenrod flowers when they are almost in full bloom for a nice golden yellow dye. You’ll get a greenish-yellow color with flowers that are just beginning to open. 

You need a mordant (an inorganic oxide) to make the dye “take.” One easy and safe mordant is using alum with tartaric acid.  Replace the alum with iron for a dark olive-green dye.   

Boil the flowers until the water dye is a rich golden yellow. Strain out the flowers and then add your mordant. Craft books will have more information on dyeing, but basically you weigh your fiber and then use 10% alum and 5% tartaric acid of the dry weight. If you use too much alum, your wool becomes sticky and you won’t be able to wash it out. Practice on a small amount of wool until you’re satisfied with your technique.

Use natural fibers like cotton, linen, wool, or silk, and pre-wash your fabric before dyeing.

Photo by Burntchestnut

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Medicinal and Practical Uses for Goldenrod

You Can Use Goldenrod Leaves for Tea

goldenrod in bloomThe Native Americans used goldenrod as a tea for sore throats and fatigue.

Goldenrod has been used for wound healing and to treat inflammation of the mouth and throat.

On December 16, 1773, the American colonists dumped black tea from ships in Boston harbor (Boston Tea Party) to protest excessive taxation. They refused to buy black tea from England and drank “Liberty Tea” and goldenrod leaves were were included in the tea blend.

To make a tea, pull off goldenrod leaves just before the plant comes into bloom. Steep a teaspoonful of dried leaves in a cup of boiling water for about five minutes. You may want to sweeten it with honey or other sweetener, or add other dried leaves such as peppermint. More information on making “Liberty Tea.

Goldenrod is used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes, gout, internal bleeding, tuberculosis, enlargement of the liver, asthma, and other illnesses.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day if you take this herb. Don’t take goldenrod if you’re pregnant or breast feeding, or if you have heart or kidney problems.

Herbs are not governed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), so do your own research before trying goldenrod or any other herb.

photo by burntchestnut 

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Updated: 10/02/2014, AngelaJohnson
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AngelaJohnson on 07/20/2018

So far, I haven't come across any except that quail (a bird) likes to hide their young under the leaves. Actually people who hunt quail often plant ragweed for that reason. I guess it's a good weed for other wildlife to hide under, too.

DerdriuMarriner on 07/16/2018

AngelaJohnson, Thank you for the practical information and product line. What beneficial uses do you find for ragweed?

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