October 8, 2021
Goldenrod Is the insects’ Thanksgiving



By Mary Reid Barrow

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways,” said the bee to the goldenrod.

This time of year,  goldenrod bursts into bright yellow blooms.  Its long flexible flowery stems wave in the breeze,  calling all the hungry bees and other insects to come hither.

The long warm summer has given way to insect Thanksgiving around my yard. And  goldenrod  is the feast.

Nectar loving insects aren’t the only insects attracted to goldenrod, say the authors of “Native Plants for Southeast Virginia, including Hampton Roads Region.”  They report  that over 100 caterpillars will munch on goldenrod leaves. That also  makes goldenrod the most popular native flower among caterpillars.

Since birds love caterpillars that means goldenrod will not only bring color to your fall garden, but it will bring birds too.   Caterpillars  are a favorite on the  bird dining table.

Photographer Robert Brown has taken some beautiful photos of insects and their love affair with seaside goldenrod down at the Butterfly Garden behind the Virginia Beach Middle School.   That is  a great place to see for yourself how spectacular goldenrod can be this time of year.

But now , as always, I can hear someone put a downer on  this goldenrod love fest.  “But goldenrod gives you hay fever?” they will say.

No matter how many times I talk about  goldenrod, this always comes up.

No, goldenrod doesn’t give you hay fever.  Goldenrod is blamed for the sins of ragweed that blooms about this time of year too.   I Have never seen ragweed that I know of.

Ragweed and goldenrod are both in the family, Asteraceae, and live in the same habitat in the wild–places like roadsides, fields and ditches. And there the resemblance ends.

Ragweed’s little greenish flowers have no nectar.  They  are full of tiny grains of lightweight pollen,  blown about by the wind,  that sends allergy sufferers  into sneezing fits.

Insects  dining on goldenrod’s sweet nectar also carryoff its heavier pollen and distributes it from flower to flower and perhaps to their nests as food for young.

Seaside goldenrod is one of about 10 species of goldenrod  here in southeast Virginia.  Some are tall and some shorter.  Some  like full sun and others will do well in part shade.  But whatever the kind,  the insects don’t care.

And allergy sufferers shouldn’t either.

 For more information on goldenrod check the native plant guide online:

Do you have a favorite tree or plant with a story to tell?  What relationships have you observed  between plants and critters?  Who eats whom?  Who has babies where?   Send an email to



PEARL HOMES are places where people care about our environment and want to do what they can to help protect our resources.

Learn more»

Lynnhaven River NOW recognizes schools providing outstanding environmental education as a Pearl School.

Learn More»

PEARL BUSINESSES are essential to truly move towards a more sustainable Virginia Beach and cleaner waters.

Learn More »

We all want to do our part to restore the health of all of our sacred waterways and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Learn More»

SUSTAINABLE YARDS PROGRAM: Let us help you “green” your Lynnhaven watershed home. This unique program provides specific stormwater management practices to your yard at a significantly reduced cost to you.

Learn More»