Early October Wildflowers: Zigzag Goldenrod

Twelve or more species of goldenrod grow in Minnesota.  All provide an important source of autumn nectar to bees, butterflies and insects, and also give a burst of long-lasting color at the end of the growing season.  Most goldenrod species grow in sunny locations, but zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) prefers shady woods and woodland borders.  It’s smaller, daintier and better-behaved than many of its cousins.

Zigzag goldenrod with aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenia).

Zigzag goldenrod with aerial yellowjacket (Dolichovespula arenia).

A patch of zigzag goldenrod grows in dappled sun near a hazelnut thicket along the banks of the Snake River in east central Minnesota

A patch of zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) grows in dappled sun near a hazelnut thicket along the banks of the Snake River in east central Minnesota.

Known also as broad-leaved goldenrod, it has oval-shaped leaves rather than thin narrow ones typical of many goldenrods.  The stem bends a little bit at each node, hence the name zigzag.  An interesting fact:  Sometimes allergy sufferers blame their misery on goldenrod, but ragweed is the true culprit.  Unlike ragweed pollen, which is wind-dispersed, goldenrod has sticky pollen that is dependent upon insect pollination.  So, if you’re sneezing in the fall, it is primarily caused by the pollen of ragweed and nettle!  To learn more about the difference between ragweed and goldenrod, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website for an excellent, succinct overview.

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