Don’t Sneeze! It’s Goldenrod.

goldenrodSolidago nemoralis

Well, maybe you’ll sneeze, if you have an allergy to members of the Asteraceae family and you stick your nose right in it. But Ragweed has green flowers with pollen that will float on the slightest of breezes. The pollen on Goldenrod is much heavier and doesn’t fly as well.

This tiny specimen lives about a half mile from my house, in one of the few patches of direct sunlight. Farther down on the county road where there’s an abundance of light, the Goldenrod looks like huge clumps of sunshine.

Since childhood, Goldenrod has been my clue that Fall is really happening. Up North, it always bloomed in late August, letting me know school would be back in session very soon. (Back in the Dark Ages, we started the day after Labor Day.) I paid no attention to what was happening on the clumps of yellow flowers, much less have any idea of the medicinal value!

Now that I’m paying attention, I see the pollinators (bees and others) visiting those flowers on a regular basis. Although I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, I read that butterflies also lay their eggs on the flowers. (Like Jen Rue I like to touch things. The flowers are soft. Cushy bed?)

There are 100-120 species of Solidago growing throughout the world (wild and cultivated – they’re showy flowers, no?) and as far as I can tell, they’re all used medicinally. Looking at Native American Ethnobotany (Daniel Moerman, Timber Press, 1998) and taking just the species in the photo as an example: a decoction of the root is good for jaundice and to aid the kidneys; the leaves are used as a poultice on burns and skin ulcers; a decoction of the leaves is used as a disinfecting wash; the seeds are used as food; and the Navajo use the entire plant as incense.

Other species are used for sore throats, as a snuff for headaches, to staunch bleeding, to treat fevers … the list goes on.

If your local species of Goldenrod has “wand” or “club” type clumps of flowers, it’s said that when asked, the flowers will nod in the direction of whatever it is you’re trying to find. Due to the flower color (you know: gold), it makes a good addition to money spells. The Iroquois and other tribes also use it for good luck in gambling; as well as in a compound designed to kill love. (The rest of the ingredients aren’t specified – you’re on your own there.)

And … rubber! The leaves of some species of Goldenrod contain up to 7% latex. In 1927, when Henry Ford was looking for a substitute for the rubber that only grew in tropical climates ($$), Edison took on the challenge. I can’t find the original species name but he chose one then cultivated it to grow larger and with more latex. The resulting plant grew about 10 feet high (the typical plant only grows 2-4 feet) with up to 12% latex in the leaves. This new species is called Solidago edisoniana. Although the experiment didn’t pan out, Ford gifted Edison with a Model T – with tires made from goldenrod rubber.

Take a walk on the wild side – I’ll bet you’ll find some Goldenrod not to far away!