Plant of the Month October 2019: Seaside Goldenrod
The more than 35 species of goldenrods in Virginia provide a spectacular fall show fall along our roadsides, fields and coast. Without question they are a most important fall nectar source for native bees and butterflies. In fact, goldenrods are hosts for over 114 species of the butterflies and moths that make up the main diet of baby songbirds. They also provide seeds for adult songbirds and small mammals. Goldenrods are pollinated by insects and do not cause allergies, but have been given a bad rap by the actual culprit, the widespread annual Common Ragweed, with its insignificant tiny greenish flowers and minute windblown pollen. Wildflower and public garden guru William Cullina (former head of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens) has written that no garden is complete without goldenrods.
Of the many garden-worthy goldenrods, our beautiful local Seaside Goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens is a standout. This perennial blooms from September into November, gracing coastal areas with masses of showy plumes of golden flowers that attract clouds of butterflies and pollinators, especially those fall migrants like Monarchs. In summer, leafy stems arise from clumps of smooth, blue-green, evergreen leaves.
Seaside Goldenrod is ideal in gardens with its well-behaved, clump-forming habit. In dry sandy soils, plants may reach only 3 or 4’ high but in richer garden soils they may top out at 6’. To control size, growing tips can be pinched back in early summer to create a full, compact plant. This tough goldenrod tolerates poor, dry sandy soils and is highly tolerant of saline soils and salt spray. An ideal plant for shoreline plantings, it is also an outstanding ornamental in perennial and butterfly gardens and challenging dry sites.
Seaside Goldenrod occurs naturally in coastal areas along upper beaches, dunes, and seaside marshes and can be readily admired along the beaches and dunes at Hughlett Point Natural Area where it mingles with beautiful Coastal Switchgrasses. Invite this showy goldenrod into your garden, and delight in its beauty, resiliency, and the clouds of butterflies that it will surely attract to your fall garden.