From mid-summer to early fall, this compact, low-growing perennial is covered with flat-topped clusters of white, daisy-like flowers with ivory-colored centers. It’s a carefree plant that thrives in dry, sandy, or gravelly soils and full sun (aka prairie goldenrod). It tolerates light shade and adapts to moist, well-drained soils. In much richer soils, it grows with vigor and loses some of its delicateness. The sturdy stems (another common name is stiff aster) are lined with narrow, green leaves that wait patiently until the plant explodes with flowers in July. The composite flowers, characteristic of the Asteraceae family, are delicate structures that have reached a high state of development. Each petal is actually a ray flower, and the center disk is made up of tiny, tube-like flowers. With landing pads, copious nectar, and pollen, composite flowers are efficient structures for multitudes of pollinators. Goldenrods are an important late-season source of nectar and pollen for monarchs and common buckeye butterflies as they prepare for their long migrations.
Upland white goldenrod is native to central and eastern Canada and scattered parts of the United States, including the Great Lakes region, the Northeast, the Great Plains, and the Southeast. Considered endangered in Ohio, it has been recorded in Ottawa, Van Wert, and Williams counties (Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources). This species has stirred controversy as to which genus it should reside in within Asteraceae—Aster, Solidago, or Oligoneuron. The open-faced flower heads look most similar to those of asters, but the narrow foliage is more like that of a typical goldenrod. In the wild, it hybridizes with goldenrods, not asters, leading some to believe it should be in the Solidago genus. Currently, many refer to it as Oligoneuron album.
Upland white goldenrod isn’t plagued with serious problems, but it is susceptible to rust, powdery mildew, and leaf spot. Poorly drained soils may lead to root rot. Insect pests include several different types of beetles, aphids, and gall-forming insects.
Native habitats include dry, rocky, or sandy open ground; open woods; bluff tops; and cracks in pavements. Use in perennial borders, cottage and rock gardens, meadows, and fall beds. The flowers are valued in cut-flower arrangements.
Grows up to 12-18” tall and wide.
Prefers full sun and tolerates light shade.
Prefers medium to dry, well-drained soils, including gravel and sand. Tolerant of drought and poor soils.
From July-October, flowers bloom on 1” stalks at the top of the plant in clusters of up to 50 flowers. Each flower is about ½” wide with 10-20 white rays surrounding a creamy to pale-yellow disk of about 100 florets. Each flower head has 3-4 whorls of narrow bracts with dark green tips. Seeds are single-seeded achenes with tufts of white fluff that allow for wind dispersal.
Alternate, smooth-or-rough leaves are up to 7 ½” long, becoming smaller as they ascend rigid, erect stems that are typically rough textured and hairy. Lower leaves are lanceolate-oval and stalked, and upper leaves are narrower and widely spaced.
Host plant for 122 species of Lepidoptera larvae, including the way-lined emerald moth (pictured here with its caterpillar), and brown-hooded owlet, asteroid and at least 13 specialist moths. Bumble, honey, and other 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 other songbirds eat the seeds.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Goldenrod is used to reduce pain and swelling (inflammation), as a diuretic to increase urine flow, and to stop muscle spasms. It is also used for gout, joint pain (rheumatism), arthritis, as well as eczema and other skin conditions. Like other goldenrods, the leaves and flowers were used by Native Americans for various ailments, including digestive disturbances.
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