Fields Of Gold

Perhaps even more valuable than that infamous pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that we all dream of, is the goldenrod that fills the field to the east of our property. Several weeks back (when I started this post) it was in full bloom.

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Goldenrod Gets A Bad Rap

Before I share with you the virtues of goldenrod I need to clear up a potential misconception. Many people have fall allergies and goldenrod often gets blamed for causing them when it is, in fact, ragweed that is likely the offending party.

I tried to take some pictures of ragweed to show you the difference but found that rag weed is difficult to photograph where it grows.

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It tends to blend right in with everything surrounding it, so I pulled one out of the ground to get a closer look.

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Ragweed

 

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Ragweed

That fact that golden rod grows tall and blossoms into very showy flowers, while rag weed hides amongst it’s surroundings, probably contributes to goldenrod getting the bad rap.

It is my understanding that goldenrod produces  pollen that is very sticky, thus it does not blow in the wind but requires insects for pollination. Ragweed on the other hand produces pollen that is very light and easily carried by the wind where we unknowingly inhale it causing us to be just plain miserable.

What Makes Goldenrod So Special?

Goldenrod has been on my list of things to blog about for a while now, because since we have been raising bees it has be our observation that it is highly foraged by honey bees. A couple of the things that make this plant so valuable to the bees is that it is both high in nectar and pollen, and that it blossoms in late summer and early fall, a time when many of the plants that provide food for the pollinators are finished blossoming.

An interesting thing that we have noticed is that when the bees are foraging in the goldenrod, and turning it into honey, the honey takes on a strong smell. While standing or walking within 20 feet or more from the hive(s) we can smell honey. This is the only time of year that the smell of honey radiates from the hives.

It was an incredible phenomenon that my husband and I observed that finally spurred me to find out more about goldenrod and write this post. It was a sunny Saturday several weeks ago when the goldenrod was in full bloom like in the photo above. We arrived at that farm and as I began my walk around our back field I noticed that the field to the east of us was full of butterflies. They were flitting and fluttering amongst and above the goldenrod and other plants growing in the field. (Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if the were called flutter-bys instead of butterflies? 🙂 ) I couldn’t even guess how many there were – way too many to count. I mentioned it to my husband and we agreed that neither of us had ever seen so many butterflies in one spot. Many of them were the small white and yellow varieties that frequent our farm (I haven’t studied them enough to learn their names). A large majority were also Monarchs. We see many types of butterflies on our farm as they are attracted to the many wild flowers, garden plants and we often see them drinking on our beach, but we have never seen so many as on this particular day.

Thus I decided to do some detective work (which means an internet search of course) to see what may be the cause of this wonderous display. I found that in the same ways that goldenrod serves the bees it also serves the butterflies. I learned that goldenrod is a great source of food for migrating butterflies. We were likely witnessing part of the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. This article explains that  A large number of wildflowers are needed so the Monarchs can store nectar in a part of their body called the lipid mass. This carries them through the long winter. Many die if the wildflowers are not plentiful due to heat or drought. Another article claimed that Pollinators will come from miles around to visit these nectar and pollen filled jewels, while referring to goldenrod.

What’s good for the pollinators is good for the people.

You are likely aware that many of the foods that we grow are dependent on insects for pollination making pollinators an essential part of our food production, but goldenrod can be of aid to humans in an even more direct manner. Goldenrod is used in herbal or natural medicine for many of the things that ail us. According to this link it is used topically for wound healing, muscle pain and arthritis. As a tea or tincture it has more antioxidants than green tea, some which make it beneficial for fighting free radicals and can even be good for the cardiovascular system, and ironically goldenrod can help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Lastly, while I’m singing it’s praises, I will also mention that goldenrod can be used to dye fabric. While this is something I have not tried (yet) I found someone who has. You can read about it here.

Does The World Need More Goldenrod?

It has been my observation that in our area goldenrod mostly grows wild along ditches or woodlines. Fields like the one in the photo above are not very common as most large parcels are either used for agriculture (either growing crops or grazing animals) or are residential lots where homeowners have planted grass which is mowed regularly during the warm months.  In those areas goldenrod doesn’t have a chance.

I have never heard of anyone planting goldrod. I have never seen goldenrod seed for sale and when we purchased a wild flower seed mix goldenrod was not included in the mix. With it being such a valuable plants I wonder why?

This year we noticed that while our own back field is filled with various pollinator friendly plants, there was only smatterings of goldenrod. We hope to change that. A couple of weeks ago my husband tilled a strip across the field and when we noticed the goldenrod going to seed we began harvesting seed heads and spreading them in the tilled soil. It is our hope some of the seeds will sprout and eventually goldenrod will spread throughout our field so we too will have a field of gold.

Do you have goldenrod growing where you live?

 

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Fields Of Gold

  1. That gold and purple are a beautiful combination. Sadly it will be about 10 months before we see them again. We are now blanketed in about 6 inches of fluffy white (and it’s still coming down).

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  2. Yes, we have goldenrod that grows wild here. You must be able to cultivate it because I know Young Living does and makes an essential oil out of it. I hope your seeds produce and you have an amazing field of goldenrod next year!

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    1. Thanks Faye. I read that it spreads both by seed and underground rhizomes so I think if we spread enough seed some will take then continue to spread. It will likely take several years to spread throughout the field so we will have to have patience.
      I was surprised to hear there is an essential oil – there are so many that I don’t know about.

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  3. I’ve always like goldenrod–so pretty. And I would have swooned from joy to see all those flutterbys. I saw the most beautiful one the other day–it looked like a black swallowtail. I greeted it with “Hello gorgeous!” I hope it finds some goldenrod:-)

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  4. Interesting. Have you made tea from it?
    Is the smell of honey pleasant?
    Yes, flutter-bys would make more sense.
    However, I’d like to change something – “Perhaps even more valuable than that infamous pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that we all dream of, is Goldie!” I couldn’t help myself.

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    1. I haven’t made tea from it. I didn’t catch it in time – it’s best to harvest flowers just before they open so I’ll have to wait ’til next year. I’m not sure how to describe the smell of the honey – it’s not a flowery smell. To me it just smells like honey but since we usually say “wow, can you smell the honey” I guess I would call it “bold”.
      LOL. I don’t think I have the evidence to support your thesis – unless you could feed all of our pollinators, make us healthier, and dye our fabrics. Nice try Goldie. 🙂

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  5. Very interesting about the goldenrod Ruth and I think I mentioned to you when I did the post showing all the goldenrod and the bees and butterflies that I was one of those people that confused the two plants, always disparaging goldenrod since I had hayfever for years. Then I went on an interpretive walk at Lake Erie Metropark last year called “Pesky Plants” and the guide said the exact same thing as you and everyone else in the group all agreed – we had the similar misconception. I saw an inordinate amount of goldenrod this Summer and in each case, there were loads of bees and butterflies enjoying it. The field of goldenrod hopefully survived Tuesday morning’s cold snap – we did not get as low as originally predicted – hope you can hang on to it and your flowers a while longer.

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    1. I used to think that goldenrod caused hay fever as well. We thought that the goldenrod seemed to have better blossoms this year because of the rains that we got shortly before it started to blossom. In past years when it has been very dry we haven’t seen as much. Our goldenrod was finished blossoming before Tuesdays frost. We got down to 32 degrees. As of today my marigolds and verbena are still blossoming I am not sure about the Lavender. I thinks it suppose to warm up for the weekend so get your walking shoes ready. 🙂

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      1. I was worried about tonight’s cold temps because they never mentioned it before late this afternoon, but I looked on Wunderground.com for Lincoln Park and it is only going to 35. I heard we have a beautiful weekend too Ruth. I have looking forward to the walking both days. Last year I took that little boat cruise for two hours on Lake Erie in August and so they sent me an ad for a cruise this Saturday to see the colors and the raptor migration over Lake Erie. So, I booked it and so I’m glad the weather will be good. If it had stayed windy, I was not going to go – it was pretty windy this morning on my walk, gusting 18-20 mph. But not icy or snowy, so I just got it done. They said folks might lose plants tonight, but I’m betting that is more in Oakland County and the northern suburbs.

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      2. We had a lot of wind this morning too but it was a pleasant evening. With clear skies I won’t be surprised if we get frost by morning. Our plan is to plant garlic this weekend. It won’t be nearly as big of chore as in previous years though.

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      3. It sure is Ruth. There is some damage in lakeshore areas I heard this morning. The waves the night the “Edmund Fitzgerald” went down were twice that height. I cannot imagine the fear by crew members.

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  6. Good read, Ruth. Yes I have some behind my barn and yes the bees love it. One funny story about that weed is back in the day a relative dried it out and sold as weed to smoke. Not really sure how it ended with him but sales didn’t last long, lol.

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  7. I will have to look for goldenrod next spring and summer. What I did notice this year was a LOT of bees and butterflies, in our garden in the city and in the wildflowers near our cabin. We were also blessed to see an amazing amount of fireflies late one night when strolling one of the country roads near our lake…it was so beautiful.

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    1. Goldenrod blossoms in late summer and into fall. That is when you will most likely notice it. It’s good to hear you were seeing so many pollinators especially in the city. Your garden was obviously a good food source for them.
      A field full of fireflies is an amazing sight. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

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    1. Hi Amy. Thanks for stopping by. I didn’t even think about an essential oil. Thanks for sharing that. I did harvest some to infuse in olive oil. I will then make it into a balm by mixing with beeswax and coconut oil.

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