Goldenrods are our most important native perennial, hosting 122 species of lepidoptera in central Ohio, including the camouflaged looper and brown-hooded owlet moths (pictured above). Hundreds of small, yellow flowers appear in late summer and last into fall, providing an important late-nectar fuel source for migrating monarchs. Its common name describes the graceful, arching stems, which are bluish-purple in color. It prefers light shade and grows in a wide range of well-drained soils. Blue-stem is a wonderful addition to smaller gardens because it’s not as large or aggressive as most goldenrods, and it adds bold color to shadier areas.
Goldenrods are often mistakenly blamed as the cause of hay fever--an allergic reaction to wind-borne pollen. But they, and most native wildflowers, do not have wind-borne pollen. Instead, the pollen is moved from bloom to bloom by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
It’s found growing wild in open upland woods, shaded bluffs, slopes of wooded ravines, and rocky cliffs. Blue-stem is usually found in quality upland woods with oaks and other deciduous trees. It’s ideal for shade gardens, wildflower patches, mass plantings, water-wise landscapes, perennial borders, and edges of woods.
Grows 1 ½-3’ tall and 1-2’ wide.
Does best with 3 hours of sun; in dense shade, stems may need to be pruned. Tolerates full sun.
Prefers average or dry soils and adapts well to loam, clay, and rocky soils. Drought tolerant once established.
From August to October, loose clusters of 1-12 golden flowerheads bloom along the upper part of the stems, often ending in a small cone of flowerheads.
Dark green, elliptical leaves grow progressively smaller near the tip of the purplish stems.
Goldenrods are the host plant for 122 caterpillar species, including the brown-hooded owlet and wavy-lined emerald moths pictured here. Blue-stem goldenrod is important to our ecological system because it attracts predatory insects that feed upon pest insects. Native and honey bees, wasps, and pollinating flies seek nectar and pollen from the flowers. Seed are eaten by indigo bunting, goldfinches, and other songbirds. White-tailed deer graze on the foliage.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
The leaves and flower have an “anise-like” scent and are brewed to make an herbal tea. The flowers are used to garnish salads.
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