Meadow goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) grows from long creeping rhizomes, often carpeting meadows and other open spaces with yellow in the late summer and autumn. Goldenrod is a sign that my favorite season is upon us.
Except for a few Southern States, this native perennial has spread widely throughout most of North America. Meadow goldenrod is often one of the first plants to appear after a wildfire or other soil disturbance.
The erect stem, which grows from 1 to 3 feet, is thinly hairy and densely covered with alternate leaves. The lance-like leaves are stalkless and three-nerved. The outer leaf margins are sharply toothed.
The meadow goldenrod inflorescence is a pyramidal. A member of the sunflower family, each goldenrod flower head is composed of ray flowers (about 13) and disk flowers and is surrounded by an involucre composed of overlapping, long, pointed bracts. The flowers are a bright yellow “goldenrod” color.
The fruits are short, hairy achenes (small, dry one-seeded) with a pappus (bristles on the top of the achene) of short, white hairs.
The genus name, Solidago, comes from the Latin and means “to make whole” and refers to the medicinal qualities of the goldenrods. A tea made from dried goldenrod flowers was used to treat colds and flu and reduce mucus in the bronchi. (During the Revolution goldenrod tea substituted for heavily taxed English tea.) Dried leaves and flowers ground into a powder served as a styptic agent to stop bleeding. Goldenrod was carried in the Crusades to stop bleeding on the battlefield.
A yellow dye can be made from S. canadensis.
Also commonly known as creek goldenrod or Canada goldenrod, meadow goldenrod also has culinary uses beyond tea. The leaves may be cooked and used like spinach. The seeds can thicken soups, stews and gravies while the flowers make a lovely, edible garnish.
Care must be taken before ingesting large amounts of goldenrod as some people are sensitive to the plant.
Goldenrod’s extensive root system makes it difficult to control along roadsides, ditches, streambanks and rangelands. Thus goldenrod is often considered a noxious weed even though it is browsed by deer and makes a fair to good feed for livestock.
These meadow goldenrod were photographed on the trail along Hat Creek near the riffle (Shasta County CA).