On my kitchen table sits a glorious pot of gold. No – I wasn’t visited by leprechauns during the night, leaving me a treasure of untold wealth; I haven’t become instantly rich, and I would never find a merchant or bank to accept the gold as legal tender. The “pot” is a vase and the gold it contains is a treasure of another kind. It’s goldenrod – one of nature’s treasures.
“Cindy? Goldenrod inside the house?! Has all that allergy medication that you take for your hay-fever gone straight to your head, and left you delirious?” Thanks anyway, but save your tissues.
Edwin Rollin Spencer, in 1940, says of goldenrod in his book Just Weeds, “The goldenrods are truly weeds of the wayside, with emphasis on the ‘weeds.’ Aside from the beauty of some of the species, which has caused them to be adopted as State flowers in several States, the goldenrods have not a single commendable character, and they do have at least one very undesirable weedy trait. They are among the generators of hay fever. The ‘wondrous days of green and gold’ become horrible days for some people when the goldenrods come on the scene.”
Sure, goldenrod produces heavy pollen – just look at all the bees and butterflies that visit when it’s in bloom. And I suppose if you stuck your nose into the flower, it’d make you sneeze – just as you would if you got a noseful of pollen from any other flower. But the idea the goldenrod is the cause of hay-fever is an age-old misconception, and one that persists today as it did when Mr. Spencer wrote his book. Although the myth that goldenrod is the cause of hay-fever has been debunked, goldenrod is still often the scapegoat when the real culprit for those itchy, watery eyes, sneezes, and eye-closing sinus headaches is ragweed. (Achoo! Now you can pass the tissues, please!)
Goldenrod’s pollen is not air-borne; the pollen is sticky, and the plant is pollinated by insects. On the other hand, ragweed, (achoo!), which flowers at the same time as goldenrod, has wind-blown pollen.
Goldenrod is a wonderful cut flower; long-lasting, it’ll stay looking good for 7-10 days in a vase. Cut it when it’s still a lime-green color to use as filler for a mixed bouquet; it’s a favorite of florists used in this way. Pick when the inflorescences are just starting to show hints of yellow, or when it’s in its full golden glory. In every stage of bloom its beauty adds bright cheerfulness in the dog days of late summer, and a warmth that carries well into autumn. As with any cut flower, a teaspoon of sugar, and a teaspoon of white vinegar added to the water in the vase prolongs freshness. The sugar feeds the flowers, and the vinegar kills bacteria that speeds the decaying process.
Don’t hesitate to bring it into your house to enjoy – there’s no need to stock up on tissues first. Plant some in your garden too. Pick a bouquet to give to a friend; he or she will not only be thankful for your thoughtfulness, but also for the bouquet’s symbolism ... for this beautiful "weed of the wayside" really is a treasure. In the Language of Flowers, goldenrod represents treasure and good fortune, and folklore tells us it brings quick wealth if planted in the garden or displayed inside the house ... maybe there is a visit from that leprechaun in my near future after-all.
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