Goldenrod – Pretty Flower or Evil Invader?

When did goldenrod become such a bad plant?  It’s really quite attractive, I think.  It’s a signature plant of the late summer/early fall prairie.  Yes, some species can form fairly dense patches and can take advantage of a weakened grass stand to get a quick foothold.  But would we complain if compass plant did the same thing?

Canada goldenrod and big bluestem at Griffith Prairie (a preserve of Prairie Plains Resource Institute).

Some people mistakenly blame goldenrods for hay fever. That, at least, is an easy illusion to dispel.  The bright colorful flowers and the abundance of pollinating insects crawling all over them clearly indicate that goldenrods are insect pollinated, not wind pollinated like ragweeds and other hay fever-causing species.  So spread the word… goldenrod doesn’t make you sneeze.

Apart from the hay fever myth, though, there are some prairie ecologists who are struggling with how to categorize and treat goldenrod in a prairie plant community.  There are, of course, many species of goldenrod – including some very rare prairie and savanna species.  Most people are fine with categorizing those as species in need of conservation.  I’m talking about some of the taller and more prolific/common species like Canada goldenrod and stiff goldenrod.  Even Missouri goldenrod (which, ironically, is the state flower of Nebraska) gets occasionally thrown into the “down with goldenrod” conversation.

One issue with these goldenrods is that they are very effective colonizers.  Their windblown seeds can disperse widely and can quickly establish in bare soil and/or in places where competition from other plants is light.  And, unlike many other colonizers (ragweeds, hoary vervain, black-eyed susans, and many annual plants) goldenrods don’t typically fade away in the face of competition from perennial grasses.  These characteristics make them a staple plant of old fields – cropfields that are allowed to stand idle and be colonized by whatever species can do so.  That’s an ideal situation for goldenrods, and they can quickly become one of the dominant species in an old field.  Many prairie restoration (reconstruction) projects that attempt to convert those old fields to prairie vegetation have found that simply tilling those old fields and seeding into them doesn’t work well because of overwhelming competition from goldenrods and other old field species that have built up populations and seed banks.  However, that’s not a knock on goldenrod, it’s a failure to properly prepare the seed bed for the restoration project.  When seeding into a site that’s been repeatedly cropped and doesn’t have a history of goldenrod populations, goldenrod is usually much less of an issue.

The colonizing ability of goldenrods gets them in bad with ranchers as well because if cattle grazing continually weakens the dominant grasses in a pasture, space opens up for the establishment of other plants.  Species like goldenrod that are not very palatable to cattle do particularly well in those circumstances.  And, again, once they establish, their ability to survive even when the grass regains its vigor sets them apart from other species like hoary vervain and ragweed, which tend to fade quickly.  Once they’re abundant they look like some kind of noxious weed, and it’s not uncommon for prairies to be sprayed to control goldenrod – a native wildflower.

So, which is it?  Are these goldenrods showy wildflowers that provide valuable resources to pollinators in the fall?  Or are they plants gone bad and in need of suppression?  Maybe both – depending upon the situation.  What I’ve seen in Nebraska prairies is that these goldenrods can look very abundant when they’re blooming, but the prairie community around them maintains its diversity pretty well, and the goldenrod tends to plateau at a certain density and not get to the point where it forms large monocultures.  But I’ve seen restored prairies in places like Illinois where it sure looks like goldenrod is dominating the plant community to the detriment of other species.

Goldenrod... pretty fall flower or aggressive invader of prairies?

If goldenrod needs control in some situations, what’s the best technique?  It doesn’t seem to be suppressed by dormant season fire.  Broadcast herbicide spraying is almost certain to be counterproductive both because it destroys the much of the larger plant community and because goldenrod will almost certainly benefit more than other species from that suppression of competing plants.  The fact that goldenrod is not palatable to cattle might mean that it’s susceptible to repeated defoliation (mowing, etc.) or prescribed fire during the growing season.  Has anyone had luck with that?

I’d like to hear about examples of goldenrod gone bad, successful or failed attempts to suppress it, or passionate defenses of these pretty flowers…  Just leave a comment below.

86 thoughts on “Goldenrod – Pretty Flower or Evil Invader?

  1. Chris, Out East the general population think goldenrod is an evil hay fever generator, in Germany cultivated varieties are an nearly every household garden and I do mean every household, along with our lovely prairie asters. I find it interesting how different social systems relate to the same things so differently. I guess education and blogs will change that eventually but maybe not always for the better.


    • It is interesting, isn’t it? A fair number of people here blame it for hay fever too. Dispelling that myth has become a standard part of my prairie tour patter, along with the value of native thistles (subject of a future blog post…). Do you see goldenrod in the less cultivated parts of the landscape in Germany as well? Or just in gardens? I’m not sure if they have native varieties there?

      • Solidago gigantea and S. canadensis are highly invasive throughout Europe . Cannot confirm that goldenrods are cultivated in every household. Honeybee lovers favour them for their flowering late in the season.
        In general, they are at least considered “problematic plants” especially along river ecosystems. But it is too late to wipe them out, so we will have to see, how things will develope any further.

  2. I think it’s interesting how many of us tend to be very comfortable with defining tallgrass prairies by the fact that they are dominated by big bluestem in terms of frequency of occurrence, percent canopy cover or biomass. Many of us would also be very comfortable with extending that definition so it includes other native warm season grasses that we may consider co-dominants or sub-dominants. But how many of us would venture to include within a definition of tallgrass prairie a statement alluding to dominance of the whole community by a forb or group of forbs? We frequently say tallgrass prairies are defined in part by the high species diversity that is a function of forb diversity, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to tallgrass prairies within the framework of being dominated by a forb.

    Why not? Is there an ecological reason to think that forbs should be automatically precluded from being a dominant species or group in any community? Is there some way to believe that forbs do not possess the necessary ecological mechanisms that would allow them to be a dominant member of a community?

    • It’s a great point, Steve. I’ve talked to people in eastern tallgrass prairies who feel strongly that prairie dropseed is a more appropriate dominant grass than big bluestem, by the way. They feel that big bluestem is much more dominant in today’s remnant (and especially restored/reconstructed) prairies than it would have been historically, and that it hurts diversity.

      And it IS interesting to think about dominance by forbs and wonder why that’s a big deal. I think that in the context of more eastern prairies, where few are left and each one is precious, any single species – or group of species – that becomes extra-dominant is seen as a threat because of its potential impact on the diversity within a small prairie. It doesn’t matter whether those extra-dominant species are woody plants like sumac or buckthorn, grasses, or forbs. In larger prairie landscapes, it’s much easier to put up with large patches of lower diversity plant communities (big patches of sumac, goldenrod, or prairie cordgrass) because it’s just additional diversity. Thanks for the comments.

      • On the prairies I’ve worked in Iowa the most abundant species varies. In some cases it’s little bluestem, big bluestem, or indiangrass. In other cases, it is a forb, followed closest by several other species. A lot of these prairies are small, and they represent a biased sample from the historic whole consisting of lands not suitable for the plow (only a few areas of prime black soil remained in prairie). I’ve always, for better or worse, viewed these as small parts of some mosaic of prairie ‘types’ where the most common historical form has become the most depleted, leaving us to guess (or depend on relatively undistrubed black-soil prairies we can count with our fingers). I think we do best then, not to define dominance by species. Most characterizations of what tallgrass prairie is arise from localities. Some from Konza might say that the prairie is 80% big bluestem (really that’s based on limited areas within Konza). Some parts of the prairie were touched more by bison or elk than others. A single, satisfactory definition for prairie is difficult to find, but I don’t lose sleep over it. Neither, the prairie down the road, nor the prairie in the Flint Hills that’s produced a lot of published papers don’t give us the whole story. Appreciating the heterogeneity–its scales and causes–is a good start.

      • Has anyone come up with the appropriate herbicide cocktail to control tall goldenrod via spot spraying and swiping

  3. Chris, The problem with the whole invasive species issue is people are looking at areas that may have been prairie, but are no longer prairie. They point to species able to colonize old agricultural fields or areas where light choking woody growth has been removed and say “ah ha, invasive species!” These same species often are not a problem in healthy remnant prairies. This being said, I have noticed more Tall Goldenrod in a railroad prairie where I collect seed. I am told it has become more frequent across the entire state. I wonder if this is just a natural population explosion that will crash given time. I have not noticed a decrease in the conservative plants from which I collect seed in this railroad prairie remnant. In contrast, Tall Goldenrod forms monocultures in restorations. Whenever I think of differences like this, it always reminds me of a now retired ecologist who said, “There are things going on in the soil that we just don’t understand.” We can talk about root competition, the effects of prescribed fire, or grazing regimes but in my experience these factors are insignificant compared to the interactions we do not understand that really drive diversity. If people want to manage diversity into restorations then that is great. I just wish more effort was being put into understanding what makes remnant prairies so diverse and why this community spreads so darn slowly (if at all) once it has been destoryed.


    • Two years ago I sowed seed of rope dodder, Cuscuta glomerata, into areas dominated by tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima. The rope dodder has significantly reduced the competitiveness of sawtooth sunflower, Helianthus grosseserratus, and helped with the dominance of tall goldenrod. Grasses and various other forbs are now showing up in areas that had previously been dominated by sawtooth sunflower or tall goldenrod. Unfortunately, the patches of rope dodder are still small within the much larger areas where tall goldenrod is dominating. I hope the patches containing rope dodder expand over time. However, it is likely the patches of rope dodder will pop up in different areas each year to prey on the most robust tall goldenrod plants. I have heard that burning helps stimulate rope dodder germination. If I am luck there will be an explosion of rope dodder in these areas when they get burned.

  4. On our 10 acres of native grasses we had mostly bib and little blue stem, partridge pea and switch grasses. They came back great after th april 2010 burn. This summer we were inundated with golden rod. We are going to disc 1/3 of the land under in hopes of killing off the golden roots there and bringing back some of the grasses. Anyone done this before.? k Hunter

    • K – I’ll be curious to see if others respond. My guess is that you’ll be disappointed with disking. Goldenrod does really well in old-field situations (cropfields allowed to sit idle) so I would guess that they would grab the advantage after disking. You might consider trying it on a small scale first and see if you like the results. Mowing might be a better option for knocking goldenrod back. It is likely less able to respond from repeated mowing than the grasses – goldenrod is rarely grazed, so may not be well adapted to that kind of defoliation.

  5. Chris, I am a prescribed burner in Ohio and I had the misconception early on that I could help people with golden rod and asters by burning. My customers believe that it will help and I have to tell them that it won’t. Not what they want to hear. It didn’t take long to figure out that fire does little to help. It does help with other invasives and thin bark trees. Let me tell everyone the best thing about golden rod and asters. I am a beekeeper and the nectar from these plants is the very best and very sweetest of any produced during the year. It has so much sugar that it crystalizes very easily. My honey customers love this honey.

  6. Pingback: Goldenrod, Allergies, and Spitballs. | The Prairie Ecologist

  7. Chris,

    I know this article is a little older but I was wondering since writing this what answers for managing goldenrod have you come to if any. At the prairie I am working right now (Midewin) we have large stands of Tall/Canada goldenrod we are dealing with. We are limited on being able to burning consistently, so Mowing might be our only dependable option. It seems from your comments you think that is the best option. What is the best time to mow them from your experience? Just curious if anything new is out there. I am still pretty new at this so your Blog is a great resource. Keep it up.

    • Hi Trevor. Unfortunately, the goldenrod issue remains an enigma to me. In fact, I was hoping Bill and the crew at Midewin might be coming up with some answers because I know they are working a lot with it… Apparently, it’s not been solved there yet either! Sorry I’m not more help.

    • I too am trying to manage Canada Goldenrod (CGR). I will be using the mow method. Currently the CGR is at around 8-12″. I will be cutting to a height of around 5″. Possibly lower in dense areas of strictly CGR with no desirables. This is a newly managed praire and the first attempt at managing CGR by mowing. The prarie is roughly 25 acres in Franklin, WI.

  8. I live around Calgary Alberta, Canada. In an old old field that still had the original prairie wool some hundred years back I found 4 stiff goldenrod, dug up and replanted minus the prairie wool in a wild flower garden. Wow! In one year 4 plants became 2 dozen! The prairie wool kept it in check but once moved to a fertilized open soil it took off. I will see what happens next year. It had to be moved yet again this spring – what a scary but amazing plant that had dozens and dozens of rhizomes shooting out each direction. I did try to grow some of the rhizomes separately but they never took and after 3 weeks I took them out.The roots were not deep at all which surprised me. It does not matter if this takes over the flower garden. I will make sure though to cut flower heads before they go to seed.

  9. I planted Goldenrod in my backyard garden and it is EVERYWHERE. posting to see if any ideas on control get posted.

    • Just finding this post and replies now, because I have the same situation as Janet. I intentionally let this area in by backyard go. It is now mostly several species of goldenrod with Canada goldenrod perhaps the dominant one. I like it the value it provides to insects, but I would like to introduce some other plants for diversity and would like to know if there are any native plants that compete well with the Goldenrod.

    • Hi Gracey,

      Goldenrod is a C3 forb, I believe. C3 is a more technical term for what you would call a cool-season plant. It is a wildflower, not a grass. However, I’m not sure warm-season/cool-season categories fit very well since it grows pretty strongly most of the season and blooms late in the summer. I guess it depends upon why you’re trying to categorize it! Hope this helps.

  10. We have 15 acres of WSG prairie here in central Ohio and golden rod is trying to infiltrate. I once thought that I would try to eradicate but have left it alone. We have considerable amount in nearby fields and my bees love it. As a beekeeper I think golden rod honey is the richest compared to “mixed ” honey. I have decided to live and let live as long as my bluestem keeps it from taking over.
    I did buy a couple of other varieties of golden Rod recently and will plant these plugs soon.

  11. Mr. Helzer, we are a group of high school students in Virginia conducting research on types of herbs that may be resistant and can still thrive in kudzu proliferation. Do you think that goldenrod (more specifically, Solidago caesia) can limit/decrease kudzu growth? Why or why not?
    Also it would be greatly appreciated if you could provide us with any research articles (or just primary sources) relating to kudzu growth and Monarda didyma — bee balm/Solidago caesia — bluestem goldenrod/Viola pubescens — yellow violet.
    Thank you,

    • Katherine,

      Thanks for your question. I do not know much about Kudzu (it doesn’t make it as far north and west as I am), so I apologize that I really can’t help you much with any of your questions. I would be surprised if Solidago was much of a competitor for Kudzu, but that is pure conjecture. Good luck with your work!

  12. We have had fairly good results in suppressing the canada goldenrod in prairie restorations by having it hayed in Aug or Sept. The following August the goldenrod is still present but short and stunted, and the dominant C4 grasses tend to be shorter too. But, I have recently noticed that a prairie restoration that was hayed last Sept has noticably declined in wild bergamot, yellow coneflower, and false sunflower, but the Silphiums and others are doing just fine. Any experiences regarding post-haying effects on prairie restorations??

    • Hi Juli, Around here, haying does seem to suppress many of the wildflowers that bloom about the time or after haying each year, but that’s in native prairies, and the results may not be the same elsewhere or with restored prairies. Interesting that Silphiums aren’t declining as fast as those other species, but I’m not too surprised. Silphiums are awfully tough. Great observations, thanks for sharing!

      • Thanks for the response, Chris. But, Monarda and Ratibida are blooming now here (Late July). That’s why it’s a bit mysterious why a late Sept haying would affect them at all, especially suppress them so noticibly (based on one case study). Have you westerners noticed any difference in the response of forbs to haying based on whether they tend to be shallowly rooted or deeply rooted?

  13. I have watched Canada goldenrod ( I have other goldenrod that I am fine with) try to take over my 16 acre prairie. I have mowed, but finally took to spot spraying. After many hours this year I have reduced the CGR by 90%. Next year is our three year burn and I expect a resurgence, I will be on top of it from right after the burn. I try to keep any plant from dominating the prairie.

  14. I am early in the process. I have just acquired a very weedy 2-3 acre field in Iowa, chock full of some huge goldenrods, sawtooth sunflower, thistle, brome grass, wild parsnip, and a couple of kinds of rag weed, not to mention multiflora rose. I have gathered what native seeds I could find, and this fall I plan to add some to that field. At this point, I feel that asters and stiff goldenrods would be a great improvement on a lot of what is there. I’m not going to try to get rid of the tall/Canada goldenrods, because they look pretty nice, and they’re better than the ragweed and wild parsnip. I’m going to go easy on the Indian grass (which I have lots of seeds for), but I don’t see why I wouldn’t be happy to see a lot more asters and stiff goldenrod. Will I be sorry?

    • Diane, I think you’re on the right track. I can’t promise you that asters and stiff goldenrod won’t become more abundant than you want (every site is different) but based on what I’ve seen you should be fine. They are definitely going to be more diversity-friendly than multiflora rose, brome, and parsnip! Good luck!

  15. Thanks for the article. I’m looking to add some perennials to my yard that will support pollinators through summer and especially in the fall. Even better if they can compete with aggressive grass weeds. I live in the arid Okanagan area of interior BC. Is Goldenrod a good choice? If so which species should I look for?

  16. I am confused in Michigan. I thought Tall Goldenrod and Canadian Goldenrod were different varieties of Solidago, one altissima and the other canadensis. Apparently we have about 23 varieties in Michigan. I have two varieties of Goldenrod growing in the same area with VERY different growth habits. One is spreading aggresively by rizomes in every direction. The rizomes are spreading under the roots other wildflowers previously established there. The young sprouts have red stems and thin leaves. The other is a spreading clump that is vigorous but pretty well behaved with light green leaves. Janice said her aggressive goldenrod was stiff goldenrod. Thank one is definitely not the one I have found but her tips on control are greatly appreciated.

    • I spot spray with Transline and spray out the Canada golden rod. It is easy to spot by its leaf shape. I fought with two different prairie “specialists” before I took the project on my self. I believe I have reduced the Canada goldenrod by at least 80%, not an easy task on 16 acres

  17. I live in a patch of woods in the Appalachians. While my property is not praire per se, there is a LOT of goldenrod growing on the edges of the wood. Mostly more aggressive species Solidago canadensis etc. but also some woodland species such as S. caesia. When I first moved here I thought….I must thin this out! Too much Solidago! That was before I came to realize that the reason there’s so much goldenrod is that, the deer don’t eat it! These days goldenrod is my best friend! I actually transplant clumps of it to areas where I’m going to plant seedlings or plants that are preferred by deer (just about everything) and the goldenrod acts as a cover. The goldenrod does not seem to inhibit the growth of other plants and the deer don’t see what they’re missing :)

  18. I have posted a picture of a retention pond prairie planting created by planting plugs five years ago. I pulled the tall goldenrod from the area on the right several weeks ago, but have not yet gotten to the area on the left. The difference is already quite dramatic. I plan to leave the tall goldenrod in other areas along the edge of the pond where planting did not occur for the benefit of pollinators.

    • James,

      Is that Joe Pye Weed on the right, where you pulled the goldenrod? I can’t see really well but it seems that you pulled one dominant species and it was replaced by another?

      • Actually, the plant you see on the right is Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Wild Bergamot is known to yield over time to the tall grasses in local Illinois prairie restorations. In this prairie planting taller plants were not included because the residents did not want their view of the water blocked. Notable species not present are big bluestem and Indian grass. Only 34 total species were planted initially and some additional species have been seeded in recently to fill the bare spots left by the removal of the tall goldenrod. Prairie dropseed was planted initially but was all but shaded out by the tall goldenrod except on the mowed edges. Even though taller species were not included the fertility of the site has made some species like blue vervain (Verbana hastata) grow taller than expected (8 ft) in the wetter areas. The species that you will still find in the area shown with Wild Bergamot include Ohio Spiderwort, Purple Coneflower, Foxglove Beardtounge, Smooth Blue Aster, White Wild Indigo, Canada Wild Rye, and Common Milkweed (not planted) along with a few others. Of the 34 species planted many are in the wetter areas that flood more frequently. The low areas that flood more frequently were not dominated by the tall goldenrod. The biggest weed issues besides tall goldenrod are field thistle, Aster simplex, and reed canary grass. Since flooding occurs regularly the reed canary seed is redistributed from near the water back into the uplands. Reed canary control will continue to be a work in progress for a long time at this site.

        • I forgot to mention nodding onion as a species that is still present in the areas in the photo. In the parts that were most dominated by tall goldenrod only nodding onion and foxglove beardtounge survived the dense shade. The removal of the tall goldenrod has allowed these two species to bloom. The areas where the tall goldenrod was set back by cutting last year had a succession of bloom dominated by fox glove penstemon, then Ohio spiderwort, and ending with the bergamot shown.

          • Other species that have survived being dominated by tall goldenrod for the last few years include culver’s root, wild quinine, and New England aster. Two additional early colonizers that are present, but were not planted, are tall boneset and Aster pilosa. I am leaving these last two species because they seem to be adding to diversity at the moment. There is also some sawtooth sunflower I am hoping will be kept in check by rope dodder that I sowed into this area last year. No rope dodder appeared this year, but I am hoping it will appear after the area is burned.

            The New England aster is a species, along with blue vervain, that has grown unusually tall in the fertile soil. The plants are over six feet tall and the conservation coordinator has complained that the New England aster has acted in a rather invasive manner, shading out other plants in the same way as tall goldenrod.

          • Do you have a blog? This is really a fascinating project to follow! Fascinating to me in that, you are able to study how species grow, dominate space or lose ground in a wet prairie-like setting without added factors such as mammalian herbivores, namely deer. I have a very small, wet prairie-like area in VA and I had hoped to add some diversity to it but have given up on that idea. The deer are too numerous and I am not prepared to fence off areas so I am in search of aggressive (but native to my region) species that provide the most value to birds and insects. For this area, the species that are aggressive enough to withstand the huge deer population are mountain mints (Pycnanthemum sp.), Solidago/Euthamia sp, Jewelweed (Impatiens sp), Monarda sp., Verbesina alternifolia, Asclepias syriaca and various thistles. Sedges (Carex sp.) are also invaluable. Are you using any sedges? Of these, the deer will consume all but the mint, thistle and wingstem but the others are aggressive enough to withstand browsing. Anecdotal I know, but the thistles and mint are probably the most utilised group of the lot. Put a stand of Monarda next to a stand of thistle and you will see! However, I realise that aesthetics are important for your project and not too many people find beauty in thistles !

          • I do not have a blog. My goal was not to study how species grow, dominate, or lose ground but was simply to maintain a planting in a manner that better represents native landscaping. Without added work such projects have a tendency to develop into a mono-culture of tall goldenrod or invasive non-native plants. The area where I am working is not an intact ecosystem, but more of a garden. Although I am using whatever knowledge of ecosystems I have been provided by actual ecologists to help shift dominance and reduce the effort I must expend.

            The wet area does have a number of sedges including Carex vulpinoidea, Carex stipata, and Carex lurida. Other sedges like C. bicknellii were likely seeded in to the drier areas, but the individual species were not specified on the seed mix only “Carex mix.”

            The reason for the field thistle control is because it was dominating in the beginning before tall goldenrod started taking over and field thistle is a listed noxious weed that needs to be controlled. The neighbors complained about the field thistles spreading seed to their lawns. There are a number of native thistles that are restricted in habitat that are valued highly by me and others. These thistle species tend to only inhabit high quality fens, sand dunes, or hill prairies and would not be expect to succeed in the planting I have shown.

            I think some deer browse is not completely undesirable. I have seen where a small portion of a railroad prairie was fenced off and now it is completely dominated by prairie sunflower. However, deer are a major homogenizing force when allowed to over populate. I would suggest trying fencing. You would not need to fence everything. With fencing you might be able to get lilies and other great wildflowers to grow. Such small enclosures are often all that is needed to convince people of the value of deer control.

  19. Hi I have a snippet of a bee safe no neonic, all non toxic as native flower as I can, prairie in my front yard garden beds in Saint Paul MN. I wondered the first year I bought my house what was coming up…A Beautiful yellow poof of dusty pollen flowers! Every sort of bee mingles there wasp, fuzzy butts, super tiny, normal, flies too! I figure if they feast like we would at a thanksgiving dinner, Ive gotta leave it. I only have 1 new stock in three years. It shares a space with bee balm, tiger lilies, come flowers, holly hocks, wild petunias, and Salvia. I love them!

  20. I used goldenrod in my yard to prevent garlic mustard, Buckthorn and honeysuckle from taking hold, it worked well. I am interested in the best way(s) to control it. You are spot on, the bees love it!!

    • I just pull it up one stem at a time trying to get as much of the roots as possible. The problem with using tall goldenrod to control woody species like buckthorn and honeysuckle is the stems of tall goldenrod are coarse and do not carry fire as well as the grasses. Often invasive woody species tend to get a foothold in patches of tall goldenrod because fire tends to not carry through these areas.

  21. I have a prairie with goldenrod heavy in one section. I’m wondering if I cut off the top flowers of the goldenrod before they seed (similar to what I did with my thistle to get rid of it) will that work? Has anyone tried that?

    • I don’t think it will have any effect as golden rod is rhizomatous with an extensive root system underground. I also have a 15 acre prairie that has a section that has become predominantly golden rod and my plan is to take seed from the WSG and spread it in the are to try to get it reestablished and choke out the GR. I am a prescribed burn contractor in Ohio and I typically burn my prairie every year. I skipped a year and that seems to have been the beginning of this GR issue. I can tell you that when I burn a field in the summer that it has no effect on GR for the landowner (indicating that removing seed won’t impact the next year). I have the landowner mow to about 8 inches high before burning and before seed heads appear and GR is as strong the next year as it was prior.

  22. I have found the opposite to be true on my land, in Dubuque, Iowa. I have started a prairie on an area that has little predator competition with the voles, and they keep all the crops down in number. Thank you for your article— I was not aware of the fact that they spread so invasively. I have been trying to get them to take —so I will cut back on transplanting! I have Stiff and Old field.

  23. I am a NH homeowner (heavily wooded state) who was raised in WI and was craving some open space around my home, so I planted about 1/2 acre of wildflower meadow 8 years ago which I lightly manage (I basically keep the saplings out, hand-cut out spent Lupine in July and hand-cut everything down to 5-8 inches from the ground late each fall or even in the winter). Some spring seasons I do rake it out heavily and some spring seasons I do nothing. The space has now morphed into lupine (which I planted), bergamot (wild), several varieties of goldenrod (wild), fern at edges (wild), milkweed (wild), and coreopsis/little bluestem/Indian Grass/prairie sage all of which I originally planted. Each of these species have seem to claimed a section to themselves, probably based on light and water conditions it appears, and it seems that each is kind of holding it’s own. I understand burning concepts, but I am AWASH with butterflies, bees, aerial insectivores…pollinating flies, hummingbirds…there are times I literally get chased out of the garden there are so many things in the air all at once! It’s fabulous. I have come close to burning, but am stopped each time by my awareness that burning such a small area would kill most of the caterpillars, eggs and other insects in larval stage that are essential to the existence of this ecosystem, and it could take several years for some insect species to recover. I am not sure which species of plant would really benefit from the burning, and which would not. The deer browse but never kill anything…the caterpillars browse but never kill anything. I have come to currently believe that the whole point of plant life is to support other forms of life, not just exist for the sake of it’s existence, which is definitely shaping my management behavior (or lack thereof). We may not be aware of what life they support, but that ignorance as a human does not justify getting rid of it. I am grappling with if I SHOULD be managing things more heavily than I am (burning every few years…pulling more goldenrod…keeping bergamot or milkweed in check…) in order to maintain what is happening right now, or just trust that it will keep doing what it/we have been doing together based on the diversity of the whole mini-ecosystem? Would it be better to assess the health of a prairie not by it’s plant diversity but by the insect diversity/health it supports (followed by bird diversity, reptile/amphibian diversity, mammalian diversity)?

    • I burn every three years in early spring. The hard freeze here (MN) would kill any small insects, eggs, etc. Like you we have many insects we enjoy, dragonflies, hummingbird moths, butterflies, and a variety of ground nesting birds. I do believe you are overthinking the issue and timing of the burn is key.

      • Lee, many insects can survive hard freezes (some just freeze solid and then thaw out and resume life again) but are killed by fire. That doesn’t make fire a bad thing at all, but it does make it important to leave unburned areas when possible so that you’re not eliminating entire insect species from a site. This is most important, of course, in places where the habitat being burned is isolated from other similar habitat from which insects can recolonize. Some insects can move long distances, but many others (including some butterflies that seem like they should) don’t seem to be able to cross simple barriers like roads, tree lines, etc. It’s a tricky issue, but definitely one worth keeping in mind as we think about land management.

        • I have 120 acres of fallow land next to my 16 acres, we always burn very early spring to ensure winter cover and food for the critters, and to not interfere with any ground nesting birds

    • Amy, you ask great questions, and you’re clearly paying attention to your site. There aren’t easy answers for any of this, but my general advice would be to manage the site so that you keep the most diversity possible of habitats and flowering plants. If some plants start to dominate at the expense of others, see if you can knock them back and allow others to thrive. Burning may or may not be helpful. As you say, it can have some negative impacts on insects and other species, but it might also help you combat woody encroachment and/or create some areas of exposed soil (for bee nesting, as an example). If you do burn, it would probably make sense to try burning only a portion of the site each time, leaving plenty of refuge for species that might be negatively impacted. Whether or not that kind of tiny burn is practical is something you’ll have to figure out. Yes, insect diversity can be a great indicator of ecosystem health, although it’s also really hard to gauge the health of insect communities since there are so dang many insects and we know so little about many of them! Most importantly, enjoy your meadow and keep learning. Sounds like a great place and project.

    • Thank you for discussing your plot, it sounds great. I did a little research and found that mowing can be done where burning can’t. I think the hand cutting sounds much better since it is gentle and would not harm insects and animals.

    • This sounds amazing. I have a much smaller area (20 x 30 feet) that I have pretty much let go. I do minimal management and have many insects including 15 species of dragonfly that come to the area to hunt. Early on I used to clear the stems in the spring until I learned about insects nesting and overwinterwintering in them. Now I just leave the stems which are mostly flattened to the ground by the snow anyway.

  24. This is all great information, including some of the information in the comment section. I have Canada Goldenrod taking over some of my flower beds. I have been leaving everything alone due to lack of time. Next year I will be retired and be able to garden every day. I don’t want to eliminate my goldenrod, but perhaps just contain it a bit more and move it where it won’t out-compete other plants. I plan on using it and many other plants in my yard as natural dyestuffs.

    • Annie, Canada goldenrod can be problematic in small areas, but if you’re willing to keep pulling it around the edges of the patch, you can keep it controlled that way. Enjoy your upcoming retirement, and good luck!

  25. I use RoundUp applied to a rubber glove which I then rub on individual tall/Canada goldenrod as they are starting to flower in my prairie garden to get rid of it. That eliminates the problem of spraying RoundUp and having it hit and kill desirable, nearby plants. It kills the invasive goldenrods quickly.

    Pulling them out in past years didn’t work since they just grow back from the rhizomes right away and in even bigger numbers the next year. The tall/Canada goldenrod was crowding out the other species which were diminishing like bee balm and rattlesnake master.

    Personally speaking I always found tall/Canada goldenrod to be rather ugly compared to others like stiff, grass-leafed, zig-zag, and elm-leafed goldenrod.

    • The link below has a photo of how I remove weeds and small woody species. This method to remove tall goldenrod has worked for me. After I have dug out the crown, I often have to fish around in the soil with my hand to find an advantageous root that had broken off. I wear garden gloves to protect my hand from the soil.

      The method you use would probably work well and be easier. I have used this method on other species when working in prairie remnant where I did not want to disturb the soil. The only problem I have observed with hand wiping herbicide is sometimes the evening dew that collects on plants runs off carrying herbicide which kills nearby plants.

  26. We have an observation of reducing and slowing down golden rod population in less than acre large spot in Slovakia (Central Europe) with grazing by old hungarian pig breed Mangalica. They loved the young plants until june/july. They even preferred it to grass.

    Year before, there were two identical spots invaded with golden rod. This year in the flowering season, the pastured field ended much sparser then the other field. And it went to flower about 2 weeks later.

    We did not cut the grass (just under the electric fence) or anything else except pasturing pigs (no clever rotation, just 1 big run).

    So to systematically control golden rod, I would make some improvements:
    1) Use intensive pig rotation on the invaded area
    2) If the pigs leave something behing, mow all the bigger plants

    I do not have setting to test this theory yet, but according to what I saw, I give it a big chance.

  27. I have a very small version of the Goldenrod in the garden which comes back year after year and pleased to say it hasn’t taken over the patch. Its a yellow sunny colour which looks good. It doesn’t matter if it’s knocked down like this year as we worked on the shed roof next to it as nothing stops it growing.

  28. Pingback: Bringing the Blooms Indoors | New Moon Nursery

  29. We have had reasonably good luck with control of rhizomatous goldenrod with a combination of mowing and repeated applications of a 0,5 ounce per gallon Imazapic solution. Imazapic is listed as a very safe herbicide which in that concentration allows many native plants to survive. It does not kill mature goldenrod with one application, but eventually does kill the rhizomes. We had to develop this method to control the huge amount of quackgrass that dominated the initial seeding of our prairies.

  30. I would not mind it so much if some thing jed to eat it. That certainly is not happening. My ducks and chickens like it for cover from hawks.

  31. I informally scatter goldenrod seed where non-natives have taken over. The goldenrod can hold its own and appears to break up monoculture of Burdock and Reed canary grass, Crown catch. Then other natives like milkweed are able to move in with the goldenrod. It appears goldenrod can be a useful plant to help recolonize invasive dominated areas.

  32. Thanks for this article, although it doesn’t really help me. I live in Michigan. We’re building a house now on 5 acres (previously farmland, been sitting vacant for at least 10 years) and in late summer/early autumn, our 5 acres is almost solid Goldenrod. Once the house is done, I want to create a meadow (or possibly a prairie, not sure what the difference really is) of native flowers in one area of the property. My husband really wants to include Goldenrod in the meadow, but I don’t want to end up with a field of Goldenrod and nothing else. What I’d love to know is, is there a variety of goldenrod that’s well-behaved and won’t end up suppressing everything else? Pretty sure what’s growing there now is mostly Canadian Goldenrod, but we do have some Showy Goldenrod, which I really like. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

    • Solidago juncea and Solidago nemoralis don’t seem too aggressive. Plant as diverse a planting as you can afford and skip the tall aggressive native grasses. Good luck!

    • I’m just a homeowner commenting – have found Mondarda Fistulosa (the native light purple bee balm) will colonize over time in the presence of Goldenrod, as well as milkweed, sweet fern, and prairie sage. If the intention is not farming a monoculture, the more variety you can get into your prairie the more variety of insects and butterflies you will get.

  33. I love to dispel the myth about Golden Rod setting off the allergies. We get so many questions and comments on it at the Farm Shows. I use an example you mentioned some years back. “Sure you can be allergic but you would have to roll around in it to get the pollen to get the allergic reaction”. I use that answer every time. The only areas where I see it expanding is in the road ditches and really enhances the beauty of mundane roads.

    • I don’t know how to send a picture in this reply but If I could, it’d show the sea of Goldenrod that currently is our 5 acre plot and yes, I’d complain if it was Compass plant as well, not because I don’t find it attractive. I find both Goldenrod and Compass plant attractive. But I want to attract a wide range of insects and wildlife and Goldenrod, while beautiful, isn’t a larval host for the Monarch or the Blue Karner. But it is thuggish enough to take over the Milkweed and Wild Lupine that would support those populations. I just want a more diverse ecosystem than Goldenrod permits me to have.

  34. I have a 15 acre prairie planting on my Missouri property. I intentionally planted about five species of goldenrod on it several years ago it has picked spots to colonize and has left other spots alone. I also planted it for migrating monarks. My biggest problem with a colonizing plant is sericea. A few years ago I noticed that sericea, which seems to have the ability to smother most plants, doesn’t seem to grow in the goldenrod colonies. It will grow in bare spots or on the outskirts of the goldenrod but rarely in the thick of it. On the other hand my native forbs don’t seem to be all that bothered by the goldenrod. Goldenrod doesn’t bloom until late summer and fall but it’s one of the first plants up in the spring. It may shade out sericea? I would be interested in knowing if others have noticed this. By the way Goldenrod doesn’t cause much hay fever. It’s pollen particles are large and sticky so it’s not easily inhaled. Ragweed is the real culprit.

  35. Canadian Goldenrod has been growing in my pollinator garden for six years. It has NOT crowed out the other native plants like brown-eyed-Susan, obedient plant or false sunflower. If it pops up in the front of the bed or a place that does not fit into my plan, it is easy to pull, before it gets established.

    When it is in bloom it is often loaded with four or more different species of pollinators, at the same time, on one cluster of the blossoms.


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