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A threatened species in Ohio, this is the goldenrod to bring into smaller gardens. Sweet goldenrod's clumping habit brings the wildlife benefits of this keystone species into gardens that require well-behaved plants. Growing 2-4’ tall with a neat form, it has a clumping growth habit, unlike many other species of goldenrod. Often found in open woods and fields, it flourishes in full sun and dry-to-average, well-drained soils, including gravel, clay, and poor soils. The pyramidal clusters of yellow flower heads bloom in late summer on upright, slightly arching branches. The yellow inflorescence is usually one-sided, with the base wider than the tip. Sweet goldenrod's narrow, green leaves are distinctive in that they each have only a single vein and smell of licorice when crushed, which inspired the common name "anise-scented goldenrod." Native to most of the eastern US, sweet goldenrod is an important late-season source of nectar and pollen for monarchs as they prepare for their long migrational flight.

 

Native habitats include dry and open woodlands, fields, and prairies. Sweet goldenrod is ideal for late-summer and fall borders, cottage gardens, and butterfly gardens and adds a splash of late-season color to meadows and open woodlands.

 

Plant Characteristics:

Prefers full sun; tolerates light shade.

 

Grows 2-5’ tall and 1-2’ wide.

 

Prefers medium to dry moisture and thrives in well-drained sandy, loamy, or clay soils.

 

Cylindrical clusters of yellow flower heads bloom August-October along one side of branches.

 

Glossy green leaves are lance-shaped and narrow with an anise-like scent.

 

Wildlife Value:

Goldenrods are the food source for the larval form (caterpillars) of 122 species of Lepidoptera, including brown-hooded owlet, asteroid, and wavy-lined emerald moths, and at least 13 specialist moths. Honey and native bees, wasps, beetles, and butterflies flock to the blooms for copious amounts of nectar and sticky pollen. Beneficial predators follow, including spiders, dragonflies, birds, and lady beetles. Goldfinches and sparrows eat the seeds.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Sweet goldenrod has traditionally been used as an astringent and stimulant and to treat flatulence and water retention.

 

Goldenrods are edible: the flowers make attractive garnishes on salads; the flowers and leaves (fresh or dried) are used to make teas; and the leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups, stews or casseroles and can also be blanched and frozen for later use in soups, stews, or stir fry throughout the winter or spring (ediblewildfood.com).

 

Sometimes called blue mountain tea due to a medicinal tea prepared from its leaves, sweet goldenrod was blended with New Jersey tea and clover to prepare a black tea substitute for colonists after the Boston Tea Party. Essential oils have been extracted from the plant for use as fragrances and flavorings.

Goldenrod, Sweet, Solidago odora

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