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Solidago, commonly called goldenrods, is a genus of about 100 to 120 species of flowering plants in the aster family, Asteraceae. Most are herbaceous perennial species found in open areas such as meadows, prairies, and savannas. They are mostly native to North America, including Mexico; a few species are native to South America and Eurasia. Some American species have also been introduced into Europe and other parts of the world.
Solidago species are perennials growing from woody caudices or rhizomes. Their stems can be decumbent to ascending or erect, ranging in height from 5 to 100 or more cm. Some species have stems that branch near the top. Some Solidago species are hairless others have strigose, strigillose, hispid, or short-villous hairs. The basal leaves in some species remain persistent through flowering, while in others the basal leaves are shed before flowering. The leaf margins are often serrated, and leaf faces may be hairless or densely hairy; the distal leaves are sometimes three-nerved, and hairless or sparsely to densely hairy with scabrous, strigillose, or villous hairs. In some species, the upper leaves are stipitate-glandular or sometimes resinous. The flowering heads usually radiate, or are sometimes discoid, with (1–)2 to 1500+ florets in racemiform (club-shaped or pyramidal), paniculiform, or corymbo-paniculiform, or sometimes secund arrays. The involucres are campanulate to cylindric or attenuate. The ray florets are pistillate and fertile. The corollas are yellow or rarely white and are usually hairless. The disc florets are bisexual and fertile and number two to 35 typically, but in some species there may be up to 60 florets. The corollas of the disc florets are yellow and the tubes are shorter than the throats. The fruits are cypselae, which are narrowly obconic to cylindrical in shape, and they are sometimes somewhat compressed. The cypselae have eight to 10 ribs usually and are hairless or moderately covered with stiff, slender bristles. The pappi are very big with barbellate bristles.
The many goldenrod species can be difficult to distinguish, due to their similar bright, golden-yellow flower heads that bloom in late summer. Goldenrod is often unfairly blamed for causing hay fever in humans. The pollen causing these allergy problems is mainly produced by ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), blooming at the same time as the goldenrod, but is wind-pollinated. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy and sticky to be blown far from the flowers, and is thus mainly pollinated by insects. Frequent handling of goldenrod and other flowers, however, can cause allergic reactions, sometimes irritating enough to force florists to change occupation.
Solidago species are easily recognized by their golden inflorescences with hundreds of small capitula; some species have their flowers in spike-like inflorescences and others have axillary racemes. They have slender stems, usually hairless, but S. canadensis shows hairs on the upper stem. They can grow to a length between 60 cm and 1.5 m. Their alternate leaves are linear to lanceolate. Their margins are usually finely to sharply serrated.
Propagation is by wind-disseminated seeds or by spreading underground rhizomes which can form colonies of vegetative clones of a single plant. They are mostly short-day plants and bloom in late summer and early fall. Some species produce abundant nectar when moisture is plentiful, or when the weather is warm and sunny.
Use and cultivation
Goldenrods are attractive sources of nectar for bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies. Honey from goldenrods often is dark and strong due to admixtures of other nectars. However, when honey flow is strong, a light (often water clear), spicy-tasting monofloral honey is produced. While the bees are ripening the honey produced from goldenrods, it has a rank odor and taste, but finished honey is much milder.
Goldenrods are, in some places, held as a sign of good luck or good fortune. They are considered weeds by many in North America, but they are prized as garden plants in Europe, where British gardeners adopted goldenrod long before Americans did as garden subjects. Goldenrod only began to gain some acceptance in American gardening (other than wildflower gardening) during the 1980s.
They have become invasive species in other parts of the world, including China; Solidago canadensis, which was introduced as a garden plant in Central Europe, has become common in the wild, and in Germany is considered an invasive species that displaces native vegetation from its natural habitat.
Goldenrod species are used as a food source by the larvae of many Lepidoptera species. The invading larva may induce the plant to form a bulbous tissue mass called a gall around it, upon which the larva then feeds. Various parasitoid wasps find these galls and lay eggs in the larvae, penetrating the bulb with their ovipositors. Woodpeckers are known to peck open the galls and eat the insects in the center.
Cultivated goldenrods include: S. bicolor, S, caesia, S. canadensis, S. cutleri, S. riddellii, S. rigida, S. shortii, and S. virgaurea.
A number of cultivars have been selected, including several of hybrid origin. A putative hybrid with aster, known as ×Solidaster is less unruly, with pale yellow flowers, equally suitable for dried arrangements. Molecular and other evidence points to ×Solidaster (at least the cultivar 'Lemore') being a hybrid of Solidago ptarmicoides and Solidago canadensis, the former now in Solidago, but likely the "aster" in question.
Inventor Thomas Edison experimented with goldenrod to produce rubber, which it contains naturally. Edison created a fertilization and cultivation process to maximize the rubber content in each plant. His experiments produced a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m) plant that yielded as much as 12% rubber. The tires on the Model T given to him by his friend Henry Ford were made from goldenrod. Like George Washington Carver, Henry Ford was deeply interested in the regenerative properties of soil and the potential of alternative crops such as peanuts and soybeans to produce plastics, paint, fuel and other products. Ford had long believed that the world would eventually need a substitute for gasoline, and supported the production of ethanol (or grain alcohol) as an alternative fuel. In 1942, he would showcase a car with a lightweight plastic body made from soybeans. Ford and Carver began corresponding via letter in 1934, and their mutual admiration deepened after George Washington Carver made a visit to Michigan in 1937. As Douglas Brinkley writes in "Wheels for the World," his history of Ford, the automaker donated generously to the Tuskegee Institute, helping finance Carver's experiments, and Carver in turn spent a period of time helping to oversee crops at the Ford plantation in Ways, Georgia.
By the time World War II began, Ford had made repeated journeys to Tuskegee to convince George Washington Carver to come to Dearborn and help him develop a synthetic rubber to help compensate for wartime rubber shortages. Carver arrived on July 19, 1942, and set up a laboratory in an old water works building in Dearborn. He and Ford experimented with different crops, including sweet potatoes and dandelions, eventually devising a way to make the rubber substitute from goldenrod, a plant weed commercially viable. Carver died in January 1943, Ford in April 1947, but the relationship between their two institutions continued to flourish: As recently as the late 1990s, Ford awarded grants of $4 million over two years to the George Washington Carver School at Tuskegee.
Extensive process development was conducted during World War II to commercialize goldenrod as a source of rubber. The rubber is only contained in the leaves, not the stems or blooms. Typical rubber content of the leaves is 7%. The resulting rubber is of low molecular weight, resulting in an excessively tacky compound with poor tensile properties.
Solidago virgaurea is used in a traditional kidney tonic by practitioners of herbal medicine to counter inflammation and irritation caused by bacterial infections or kidney stones. Goldenrod has also been used as part of a tincture to aid in cleansing of the kidney or bladder during a healing fast, in conjunction with potassium broth and specific juices. Native Americans chewed the leaves to relieve sore throats and chewed the roots to relieve toothaches.
The goldenrod is the state flower of the U.S. states of Kentucky (adopted 1926) and Nebraska (adopted 1895). Goldenrod was recently named the state wildflower of South Carolina. The sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora) is the state herb of Delaware. Goldenrod was the state flower of Alabama, but it was later rejected in favour of the camellia.
- Solidago albopilosa E.L.Braun – whitehair goldenrod
- Solidago altiplanities C.E.S. Taylor & R.J.Taylor – high plains goldenrod
- Solidago altissima L. – Canada goldenrod, late goldenrod
- Solidago arenicola Keener & Kral – southern racemose goldenrod
- Solidago arguta Ait. – Atlantic goldenrod, forest goldenrod, toothed goldenrod, cut-leaf goldenrod
- Solidago arguta. var. arguta
- Solidago arguta var. boottii (Hook.) Palmer & Steyermark – Boott's goldenrod
- Solidago arguta var. caroliniana Gray
- Solidago arguta var. harrisii (Steele) Cronq. – Harris' goldenrod
- Solidago auriculata Shuttlw. ex Blake – eared goldenrod, clasping goldenrod
- Solidago bicolor L. – white goldenrod, silverrod
- Solidago brachyphylla Chapman – Dixie goldenrod
- Solidago buckleyi Torr. & Gray – Buckley's goldenrod
- Solidago caesia L. – wreath goldenrod, axillary goldenrod, bluestem goldenrod, woodland goldenrod
- Solidago caesia var. caesia L.
- Solidago caesia var. zedia R.E.Cook & Semple
- Solidago canadensis L. : Canada goldenrod, Canadian goldenrod, common goldenrod
- Solidago canadensis var. canadensis
- Solidago canadensis var. hargeri Fern. – Harger's goldenrod
- Solidago chilensis Meyen
- Solidago curtisii Torr. & A.Gray – mountain decumbent goldenrod, Curtis' goldenrod
- Solidago dahurica (Kitagawa) Kitagawa ex Juzepczuk
- Solidago decurrens Loureiro
- Solidago delicatula Small – elmleaf goldenrod, smooth elm-leaf goldenrod
- Solidago drummondii Torr. & A.Gray. – Drummond's goldenrod
- Solidago elongata Nutt. – West Coast goldenrod, Cascade Canada goldenrod
- Solidago erecta Nutt. – showy goldenrod, slender goldenrod
- Solidago faucibus Wieboldt – gorge goldenrod
- Solidago fistulosa P.Mill. – pine-barren goldenrod
- Solidago flexicaulis L. – zigzag goldenrod, broadleaf goldenrod
- Solidago gattingeri Chapman – Gattinger's goldenrod
- Solidago gigantea Ait. – giant goldenrod, tall goldenrod, early goldenrod, smooth goldenrod
- Solidago glomerata Michx. – clustered goldenrod, skunk goldenrod
- Solidago guiradonis A.Gray – Guirado's goldenrod
- Solidago hispida Muhl. ex Willd. – hairy goldenrod
- Solidago houghtonii Torr. & A.Gray ex A.Gray – Houghton's goldenrod
- Solidago juliae G.L.Nesom – Julia's goldenrod
- Solidago juncea Ait. – early goldenrod
- Solidago kralii Semple – Kral's goldenrod
- Solidago lancifolia Torr. & A.Gray – lance-leaf goldenrod
- Solidago latissimifolia P.Mill. – Elliott's goldenrod
- Solidago leavenworthii Torr. & A.Gray – Leavenworth's goldenrod
- Solidago leiocarpa DC. in DC. &. A.DC. – Cutler's alpine goldenrod
- Solidago lepida DC. – western Canada goldenrod
- Solidago ludoviciana (Gray) Small – Louisiana goldenrod
- Solidago macrophylla Pursh – largeleaf goldenrod
- Solidago microglossa DC.
- Solidago minutissima (Makino) Kitam.
- Solidago missouriensis Nutt. – Missouri goldenrod, prairie goldenrod, Tolmie's goldenrod
- Solidago mollis Bartl. – velvety goldenrod, soft goldenrod, woolly goldenrod
- Solidago multiradiata Ait. – Rocky Mountain goldenrod, alpine goldenrod, northern goldenrod, manyray goldenrod
- Solidago nana Nutt. – baby goldenrod, dwarf goldenrod, gray goldenrod
- Solidago nemoralis Ait. – gray goldenrod, dyersweed goldenrod, old-field goldenrod
- Solidago nemoralis ssp. decemflora (DC.) Brammall
- Solidago nemoralis ssp. nemoralis Ait.
- Solidago nitida Torr. & A.Gray – shiny goldenrod
- Solidago odora Ait. – anise-scented goldenrod, sweet goldenrod, fragrant goldenrod
- Solidago odora ssp. chapmanii (Gray) Semple – Chapman's goldenrod
- Solidago odora ssp. odora
- Solidago ohioensis Riddell – Ohio goldenrod
- Solidago ouachitensis C.E.S.Taylor & R.J.Taylor – Ouachita Mountains goldenrod
- Solidago pacifica Juzepczuk
- Solidago patula Muhl. ex Willd. – roundleaf goldenrod, roughleaf goldenrod
- Solidago patula ssp. patula
- Solidago patula ssp. strictula Torr. & A.Gray
- Solidago petiolaris Ait. – downy ragged goldenrod
- Solidago pinetorum Small – Small's goldenrod
- Solidago plumosa Small – plumed goldenrod, plumose goldenrod, Yadkin River goldenrod
- Solidago ptarmicoides (Torr. & A.Gray) B.Boivin – white flat-top goldenrod, upland white aster
- Solidago puberula Nutt. – downy goldenrod
- Solidago puberula ssp. puberula
- Solidago puberula ssp. pulverulenta (Nutt.) Semple
- Solidago pulchra Small – Carolina goldenrod
- Solidago radula Nutt. – western rough goldenrod
- Solidago riddellii Frank ex Riddell – Riddell's goldenrod
- Solidago rigida L. – rigid goldenrod, stiff-leaf goldenrod
- Solidagi rigida ssp. glabrata (E.L.Braun) S.B.Heard & Semple
- Solidagi rigida ssp. humilis (Porter) S.B.Heard & Semple
- Solidagi rigida ssp. rigida
- Solidago roanensis Porter – Roan Mountain goldenrod
- Solidago rugosa P.Mill. – wrinkleleaf goldenrod, rough-stemmed goldenrod
- Solidago rugosa ssp. aspera
- Solidago rugosa ssp. rugosa
- Solidago rupestris Raf. – rock goldenrod
- Solidago sciaphila Steele – shadowy goldenrod
- Solidago sempervirens L. – seaside goldenrod, salt-marsh goldenrod
- Solidago sempervirens ssp. mexicana (L.) Semple
- Solidago sempervirens ssp. sempervirens
- Solidago shortii Torr. & A.Gray – Short's goldenrod
- Solidago simplex Kunth : Mt. Albert goldenrod, sticky goldenrod
- Solidago simplex ssp. randii (Porter) Ringius – Rand's goldenrod
- Solidago simplex ssp. simplex
- Solidago spathulata DC. – coast goldenrod
- Solidago speciosa Nutt. – showy goldenrod, noble goldenrod
- Solidago speciosa ssp. pallida (Porter) Semple
- Solidago speciosa ssp. speciosa
- Solidago spectabilis (D.C.Eat.) A.Gray – Nevada goldenrod, basin goldenrod
- Solidago sphacelata Raf. – autumn goldenrod, false goldenrod
- Solidago spithamaea M.A.Curtis – Blue Ridge goldenrod, skunk goldenrod
- Solidago squarrosa Nutt. – stout goldenrod
- Solidago stricta Ait. – wand goldenrod, willow-leaf goldenrod
- Solidago tarda Mack. – Atlantic goldenrod
- Solidago tortifolia Ell. – twistleaf goldenrod
- Solidago uliginosa Nutt. – bog goldenrod, fall goldenrod
- Solidago ulmifolia Muhl. ex Willd. – elmleaf goldenrod
- Solidago ulmifolia var. palmeri Cronq. – Palmer's elmleaf goldenrod
- Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia
- Solidago velutina DC. – threenerve goldenrod, velvety goldenrod
- Solidago velutina ssp. californica (Nutt.) Semple – California goldenrod
- Solidago velutina ssp. sparsiflora (A.Gray) Semple
- Solidago velutina ssp. velutina
- Solidago verna M.A.Curtis – springflowering goldenrod
- Solidago villosicarpa LeBlond – glandular wand goldenrod, hairy-seed goldenrod
- Solidago virgaurea L. – European goldenrod
- Solidago wrightii A.Gray – Wright's goldenrod
- Solidago × asperula Desf. (S. rugosa × S. sempervirens)
- Solidago × beaudryi Boivin (S. rugosa × S. uliginosa)
- Solidago × calcicola (Fernald) Fernald – limestone goldenrod
- Solidago × erskinei Boivin (S. canadensis × S. sempervirens)
- Solidago × ovata Friesner (S. sphacelata × S. ulmifolia)
- Solidago × ulmicaesia Friesner (S. caesia × S. ulmifolia)
- Solidago californica Nutt. – California goldenrod (Solidago velutina ssp. califonica)
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