AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

As late summer approaches, a variety of bright yellow flowers dust the fields, roadsides, and forest floors of New England. There are over 80 species of Goldenrods across North America and Europe and their blooms emerge just as many outdoor enthusiasts begin to experience hay fever. As a result, many who suffer from late summer allergies mistakenly blame this plant for their sniffles. However, the blame truly belongs to the less showy members of the Ambrosia genus, better known as Ragweed.

Beginning in mid-August, an individual Ragweed plant produces billions of pollen grains dispersed by wind. Those with sensitive allergies are exposed every time the wind blows. Furthermore, research suggests that global warming may contribute to even higher pollen production in Ambrosia species. On the other hand, the pollen of Goldenrod is much too heavy to be dispersed by wind and is instead spread by insects. Plants in the Solidago genus are an especially valuable host plant for both larval and adult butterflies and moths.

Historically, Goldenrod has also been used for producing rubber. In fact Thomas Edison successfully cultivated Goldenrods with a 12% rubber yield which was utilized by Henry Ford in the tires of his popular Model T!

So next time you sneeze, think twice before blaming the first colorful bloom in sight. The true culprit may be just under your nose.

Photo Credits: Martin Ruzek (Solidago canadensis, top right); Forest and Kim Starr (Ambrosia artemisiifolia, bottom left)