tall goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)
Aster canadensis (L.) Kuntze
Doria canadensis (L.) Lunell
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Pending confirmation.
TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name of tall goldenrod
is Solidago canadensis L. Often called Canada goldenrod, this species
was thought to be separate from another species Solidago altissima. How-
ever, the species Solidago altissima (tall goldenrod) is now considered a
variety of Canada goldenrod, rather than a separate species. In addition,
two sometimes difficult-to-distinguish varieties with greatly overlapping
ranges are recognized: 1) Solidago canadensis var. canadensis, and 2)
Solidago canadensis var. hargeri. The Atlas of Virginia Flora does not
list Solidago canadensis, but it does list Solidago altissima as occurring
in Facquier County. For the Nature Guide, Solidago canadensis var. can-
adensis will be used.
Solidago × bartramiana Fernald [Solidago canadensis var. bartramiana
(Fernald) Beaudry] is considered to be a hybrid between Solidago can-
adensis and Solidago uliginosa. Its growth form and array are more like
those of the latter.
NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Habit: This is a native perennial plant with a central stem that is 2-6' tall.
Because of the wide distribution and the existence of several varieties,
there is significant variability in the characteristics of local ecotypes.
Leaves: The alternate leaves are about 4-6" long and 1" wide, becoming
slightly smaller towards the apex of the plant. They are lanceolate to broad-
ly linear in shape, and usually have small teeth along the margins, other-
wise the margins are smooth. The stems have lines of white hairs, while
the undersides of the leaves are pubescent.
Flowers: Several flowering stems emerge from the top of the plant in the
form of a panicle bearing masses of tiny yellow flowers. Each flower is
less than ¼" across. The flowers occur along the upper part of each flower-
ing stem, and sometimes have a slight fragrance.
Fruit/Seeds: The achenes are longitudinally ribbed, slightly hairy, and
have small tufts of hair, which help to provide dispersion by wind.
Roots: The root system is fibrous, producing creeping rhizomes that
cause the plants to cluster, sometimes forming dense colonies. There is
some experimental evidence that Canada goldenrod inhibits the growth
of maple seedlings, and possibly other plants as well, by exuding allelo-
pathic chemicals through the roots.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Tall goldenrod is cross-pollinated by
insects and propageted by seeds.
HABITAT TYPES: Natural habitats include disturbed areas of moist to
dry prairies, openings in both floodplain and upland forests, thickets,
savannas, limestone glades, and gravel seeps. In more developed areas,
it occurs in both cultivated and abandoned fields, vacant lots, power-line
clearance areas, and along fences, roadsides, and railroads.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: The preference is full to partial sun, and
average moisture levels (it is not found in high moisture/waterlogged
locations). This plant will tolerate some drought (but not very dry loca-
tions), in which case it will probably drop some of its lower leaves. This
plant tolerates a variety of soils, perhaps even preferring a heavier soil
with some clay content. It typically is one of the first plants to colonize
an area after disturbance (such as fire) and rarely persists once shrubs and
trees become established. During the fall, powdery mildew occasionally
attacks the leaves.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: The blooming period is from late sum-
mer to fall, with an individual plant remaining in bloom about 3 weeks.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: With the exception of the extreme
southeastern states in the United States and the far northern reaches
of Canada, Solidago canadensis is found throughout most of the north
American continent north of the Rio Grand.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION: To be determined.
IMPORTANCE AND USES: A wide variety of insects visit the flowers
for pollen or nectar, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees,
wasps, flies, beetles, and a few butterflies and moths. Cross-pollination
by these insects is required in order to set fertile seeds. The flowers are
especially attractive to many species of wasps and flies, which play an
important role in controlling insect pests, or breaking down organic matter
in the detritus cycle. The caterpillars of many moths feed on the foliage
and other parts of this goldenrod and others. A common insect that forms
spherical galls on the stems is Eurosta solidaginis (goldenrod gall fly).
Other insects that feed on this goldenrod include Epicauta pensylvanica
(black blister beetle), Lopidea media (goldenrod scarlet plant bug), Lygus
lineolaris (tarnished plant bug), and various leaf beetles and leafhoppers.
Among mammals and birds, the prairie chicken, eastern goldfinch, and
swamp sparrow eat the seeds, while the white-tailed deer and eastern
cottontail rabbit occasionally eat the foliage (although it is not a preferred
food source). In overgrazed pastures, there have been reports of a rust
fungus on the leaves of goldenrod poisoning livestock during the fall.
Sometimes beavers and muskrats use the stems in their dams or dens.
Tall goldenrod is cultivated and introduced in more western states and in
Europe. It has been reported that the foliage of the typical species contains
a volatile oil that chemically resembles the oil from pine needles.
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