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: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/Portals/0/DEQ/CoastalZoneManagement/Native-Plants-for-Southeast-Virginia-Guide.pdf
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 firstname.lastname@example.org