Gray goldenrod, aka dwarf goldenrod, is one of the smallest and best-behaved of the goldenrod species, typically growing to a compact height of 6-24”. It’s easily grown in a variety of dry or well-drained soils in full sun, although it also grows in light shade. This makes it a good choice for areas with poor soils where other plants do not thrive, including patches near black walnut trees. Showy yellow flowers appear on one side of arching stems August through September, providing late-season color and an important food source for native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Individual plants bloom at different times, which extends the flowering season. It’s not an aggressive species and spreads nicely by rhizomes and self-seeding to fill in spaces. Contrary to popular belief, goldenrods do not cause hay fever.
Found in open woods, thickets, upland prairies, and along roadsides. It may be planted as a groundcover for dry, harsh conditions and is an ideal addition to wildflower meadows and naturalized gardens.
Grows 6-24” tall and 6-30” wide.
Prefers full sun but tolerates light shade. Intolerant of full shade.
Grows in a range of soils, including sandy, rocky, and clay. Tolerates poor soils and grows well in loam but may be short lived if soil is too rich. Drought tolerant once established.
Tiny yellow flowers appear in 4-10” plumes August-October. Dried seeds with tufts of white hair are wind dispersed.
Each clump has 1-6 unbranched stems with short, white hairs. Narrow-to-spoon-shaped gray-green leaves line the stems. While both lower and upper leaves have serrated edges, lower leaves are larger and have winged petioles.
Goldenrods act as host plants for more lepidoptera than any other perennial in our area and for most of the US. It feeds the larvae of 122 pollinators, including green leuconyta, phanetas, and at least 11 other specialist moths. Other visitors include long- and short-tongue bees, honey bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and butterflies. Praying mantises frequent the flowers to prey on the abundant insects. Goldfinches and other songbirds eat the seeds. Around 50 species of insect larvae feed on the stems of goldenrod species. The insect galls are pecked open and the larvae are eaten by foraging woodpeckers and chickadees.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
The leaves are used to make goldenrod tea.
All parts of the plant are used to make mustard, orange, and brown dyes.
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