Wreath Goldenrod, Solidago caesia

This article was written in celebration of the 2021 Plant of the Year in the category of 'Native perennials for your backyard habitat'.
By John Suskewich , NPSNJ Essex Chapter

Wreath Goldenrod Solidago caesia

All goldenrods have their virtues, but for many gardeners wreath goldenrod takes the gold. Solidago caesia is an herbaceous perennial, from the important family Asteraceae, that is one of New Jersey's most useful and beautiful native plants. Sporting a long chaplet of petite, clear yellow flowers, emerging zig-zaggedly from the axils along the gracefully arcing stems, wreath goldenrod blooms from late summer into fall, when pollinators are getting in their last desperate licks and slurps. Bees and butterflies descend on the plant in October as if it were "last call" at the only open saloon on the block. Not many other native plants display this degree of elegance with such adaptability to a wide range of garden conditions. Wreath goldenrod can handle almost any degree of moisture except sopping wet, grows beautifully in sun or part shade, and plays well with other natives since it is clump forming not a running bully. Typically it grows two to three feet tall, and spreads about that much. Hale and hearty, it is usually pest and disease free. Hale and hardy, it performs fine in zones 4 to 8.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, the name of the genus comes from Latin words that refer to the alleged healing properties of some species, solidus meaning "whole" and ago meaning "to make," a horticultural portmanteau that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but then I'm not a taxonomist. Its other common name is blue-stem goldenrod, which explains the application of the specific epithet. Caesia means "light blue," apparently referring to the color of those glabrous stems, which look green to me, but I'm not an optometrist either.

Finally, I cannot duck from refuting the canard that goldenrods cause hay fever. This old wives tale has long been propagated not only by old wives, but also by my back-seat gardening husband, who likes to blame goldenrod for his autumnal sinusitis. This is not the case. Being smothered in bees indicates a plant is sowing its wild oats through insect pollinators not the wind. It is the pollen of ugly ragweed that is usually the cause of October sneezing. So there is no reason not to make room for beautiful, late-blooming wreath goldenrod in any planting of natives. It well deserves the goldenrod crown of laurel. 

Photo: Randi V.Wilfert Eckel, Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve, Washington Crossing, PA 

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