Do You Know Your Goldenrods?
Worth Its Weight in Gold
by Chelsea B. Plimpton, Wild Ones Midcoast Maine Secretary
Walking along the shoreline, feeling the warmth from the sand underfoot and the smell of salt in the air, I allow the ocean’s energy to cleanse my senses as I softly scan the green vegetation covering the nearby sand dunes. Suddenly, a clump of gorgeous, gold hues catch my eye. I walk closer, drawn to it as a moth would be to flame. Just a few more steps, and a flutter of Monarch butterflies burst upward, swirling around until safely finding a place to land. The tight, yellow flower clusters of Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) are mesmerizing.
A member of the Asteraceae family, this native goldenrod species is well adapted to surviving the tough coastal habitats of Canada and the northeast. It has also been observed thriving along the Mid-Atlantic region through Florida and west to Texas. With an average height of 3-6 feet and a blooming schedule ranging from August – October, seaside goldenrod provides a tremendous value to a variety of pollinator species, especially the iconic monarch butterfly. During the months of June through September, monarchs are reaching the northern territories of their summer breeding range. Cool autumn temperatures signal the beginning of their southern migration back to overwintering grounds in Central Mexico.
While adult female monarchs search for milkweed plants to lay their eggs, they are actively feeding from a collection of blooming plants. The sugary composition of nectar replenishes dropping energy levels. Seaside goldenrod is one of the top food sources for migrating adult monarchs traveling along the coastal Atlantic flyway. Additionally, this native perennial helps to support the stabilization of dunes, which prevents erosion and provides a foundation for other forb, or broad leaf plant, species.
Literature Cited: Sheahan, C.M. 2014. Plant Guide for seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens).
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cape May Plant Materials Center Cape May, 08210