Driving down the road, I can’t help but notice that the trees have been changing colors, especially since the temperatures have cooled.
For the past month my attention has been drawn to the color yellow, which has lately become much more visible. Along the roads, ditches and old fields, I have seen masses of yellow flowers. What’s blooming are goldenrods, ragweed, yellow crown-beard and sneezeweed.
Most people think goldenrod is just a pretty weed, and that they don’t want to have anything to do with it because of a misconception. Many folks who suffer from allergies mistake blooming goldenrod as the culprit for aggravating their sinuses. But goldenrod isn’t the cause of hay fever. It is mainly ragweed and grasses that are causing the allergy problems.
Goldenrod has brightly colored flowers to attract insects. Its pollen grains are relatively large and heavier than air. They are designed to be carried off by flies, bees, butterflies, even ants or birds, but not by the wind.
This is a great plant for honey bees. It produces nectar for honey production and pollen.
Most people know about goldenrod, but rarely do they consider it worthy of being planted in the home landscape.
Actually, goldenrod has many characteristics that make it a very good choice for gardens.
Because it is native, it can survive in some of the poorest soils and harshest areas. Goldenrod is also very tolerant of our summers, whether they are hot and dry or wet and mild.
The one problem with these plants is that because they spread by underground rhizomes, they can become invasive.
Goldenrod blooms each September and October regardless of its growing conditions. It is also low-maintenance; it’s a tough old weed that keeps on thriving with very little to no care. Lastly, goldenrod’s long, sturdy stems make it a top pick for fall flower arrangements.
Another plant that is seen growing along the roadsides is ragweed.
Ragweed blooms about the same time as goldenrod and can usually be found growing next to it. It is an outstanding wildflower and also produces nectar and pollen for bees in the fall of the year. It also provides browse for deer.
The seeds from ragweed are consumed by many of our songbirds.
The best way to tell the difference between goldenrod and ragweed is to look at the leaf arrangement. Goldenrod leaves are arranged on the stem in an alternating pattern, while ragweed’s leaves are opposite each other. The leaves of the most common type of ragweed in this area are deeply lobed.
Another plant blooming now is yellow crown-beard. This is a common plant in the area, easy to recognize because of the wing-like projections on the stem. This plant will grow up to 4 feet tall. It has large leaves that can be up to 5 inches long and 2 inches wide, arranged opposite each other on the stem. Because of small white hair that grows on the stem and leaves, they have a white, fuzzy, soft appearance.
Yellow crown-beard is a member of the aster family, with flowers that are yellow disks. These plants can become invasive because they spread by underground rhizomes.
Birds eat the seeds and bees will gather pollen from it.
Another plant that can be seen growing in pastures and along the side of the road is sneezeweed. This is a perennial weed that will grow to about 2 feet tall.
It is easy to tell this plant because of the shape. The bottom of the plant will be bare, while the top half of the plant has small leaves with flower clusters at the end of the limbs.
It will flower in the spring and fall. This plant will grow in poor soils and likes to grow in areas where it is not disturbed.
Other than the beauty of the flowers, this plant doesn’t provide any value to wildlife. Deer will not eat it and the seeds are not eaten by any birds.