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Goldenrod: The Wildflower with a Heart of Gold

Far from being a nuisance, sunny goldenrod offers a variety of health benefits, and hides an intriguing secret role in industrial history.

| Fall 2019

goldenrod-flower
Photo by Adobe Stock/Сергей Чирков

I’ve been fascinated by goldenrods since I wrote about them several years ago. At the time, I was working on two weekly blog posts and sought my material while taking my daily walk. During fall here in Ohio, nothing is more remarked upon in the landscape than the bright shocks of goldenrod. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. To me, goldenrod is a beautiful and useful plant, to others it’s an accursed weed.

Deep in the Weeds

As a beekeeper, I’ve always looked forward to the goldenrod bloom. The plant is an important pollen and nectar source that helps our soon-to-be overwintering bees to stock up well just before retiring. Its bloom tells us that the beekeeping year and all its work is coming to an end. Soon the snow will fall and we’ll all be snug inside our respective homes waiting for spring.

In our café and apothecary, the story of goldenrod is a bit different. Many of our customers see goldenrod season as a time to suffer. I find myself repeating the news that a true goldenrod allergy is actually quite rare. Touching too much of the pollen can set off an attack of contact dermatitis in some, but otherwise it’s too heavy and sticky to become airborne. Nonetheless, this misapplied hatred is placed firmly on the shoulders of lovely yellow goldenrod, and thus it gets called a weed.



bee
Goldenrod's late bloom period helps bees stock up for winter.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Сергей Козлов

I find myself highly motivated to correct humans’ misunderstandings of the plant world. While out on my daily walks, I try to imagine how I can reframe the story. In the case of goldenrod, I had once used it in the case of a client who had lost muscle tone in her bladder. I clearly needed more ammunition if I wanted to encourage people to see it in a new light.



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