Signs of Summer Past

Though summer always seems too short, I still look forward to the big burst of flowering goldenrod and the steady rhythm of cricket songs signaling the end of the summer season. The intense variety of bronze, rust, and yellow of the goldenrods blooming in late August never fails to catch my eye. As I am driving or walking, I realize that goldenrod is blooming everywhere I look, along the roadsides, in open meadows, in nicely kept gardens, even along the edge of Lonesome Lake! And they will kept up the big show until the first frost!

Photo credit: Nancy Ritger

Goldenrod is often overlooked because it is so abundant or wrongly despised as an allergen. What many don’t realize is that goldenrod is not responsible for the itchy eyes and runny noses of allergy sufferers. Goldenrod is pollinated by insects, therefore the pollen grains are heavy and sticky so that they can adhere to visiting insects and be transferred to another flower. The real culprit is ragweed, another common plant flowering in late summer. The pollen grains of ragweed are released by the billions and small enough to be carried by the wind to another ragweed plant for fertilization. Since ragweed does not depend on insects for pollination its inconspicuous green flower does not attract the same attention as goldenrod.

Though goldenrod is often overlooked, that is not the case all around. The scientific name: Solidago, means "to make whole". Medicinally it is known and used for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and as well as a source of bioflavonoids for strengthening veins. Goldenrod is also an excellent natural vivid yellow dye.

And from TCM (R&D) of the UK:
“One further fact about Goldenrod needs mentioning. Thomas Alva Edison, (1847-1931) he of the light bulb, the phonograph and the cine camera, as well as over 1000 other patents, was looking for a possible source of home produced rubber, should imports fail in times of war.

Photo credit: Nancy Ritger

Among plants tested was Goldenrod, which contains 5% of the polyterpene latex. He instituted a breeding and cultivation program which resulted in the production of plants 4 meters tall and containing 12% latex. Good rubber indeed was made, some of it surviving to this day. Henry Ford showed initial interest in the project, and the "Model T" he gave to Edison, had tires of goldenrod rubber! The coming of artificial elastomers, which could be more cheaply produced than the goldenrod derived product, led to the project being abandoned shortly before Edison's death. “

The end of summer may be here with Goldenrod carpeting the landscape, but that splash of color is anything but ordinary. More on the cricket chorus next time….