Golden autumn beauty
There’s a wealth of wild beauty in the fall, most notably from deciduous tree leaves. We start to see changes by early September. The odd branch or leaf turns orange, red or yellow, foreshadowing the impending riot of colour. But there are other plants that contribute to the colourful display we enjoy every autumn.
Roadsides and fields glow from an abundance of tall slender plants crowned with yellow flowers. With over 140 varieties, goldenrod is a common sight across the countryside. Blooming at the same time as ragweed, many hay fever sufferers believe the pretty yellow flowers are behind their suffering. However, goldenrod pollen is too heavy and sticky to be transported by the wind. It’s ragweed with its light pollen spread by gentle breezes that’s causing all their misery.
Goldenrod flowers are a source of food for many insects, notably bees and butterflies. Goldenrod honey is light-coloured and flavourful. Monarch butterflies also rely on the nectar to help fuel them during their migration southwest across North America to Mexico.
Other insects use goldenrods to house their young. The familiar round galls form in the stems around the cream-coloured larvae. They often become winter food for chickadees and woodpeckers. Different insects cause bunch (or rosette) galls to form at the top of the plant. None will kill the plant, and they provide food and shelter for other creatures.
Fun Fact: Thomas Edison experimented with cultivation of goldenrod to produce rubber. The plants he bred grew over 3.5 m tall and contained about 12 per cent rubber. The tires on the Model T car that Henry Ford gave him were made from goldenrod rubber!
Enjoy the kaleidoscope of autumn flowers: goldenrod, purple aster, black-eyed Susan, and the last of the Queen Anne’s lace. Drink in all that beauty – winter is coming!
Nancy Melcher is The Nature Nut. Send details of your sightings or questions about the natural world to: email@example.com