The Goldenrods of fall

For those of you who suffer from hay fever, fall is not the best time of the year.
Several of the plants which cause those miserable allergic reactions bloom in the late fall. Among them are the ragweeds and the goldenrods.
For people who are not allergic to them, the goldenrods supply a beautiful aura of gold to the fall landscape. Meadows, pasture fields, and forest edges will have their share of the brilliant yellow flowers.
In case you think that “goldenrod” refers to only one plant, be advised that there are 60 or more species in eastern and central North America.
As an educated guess, perhaps 10 or 15 of these might be found here in Northern Ontario.
All of the goldenrods belong to the Genus Solidago, and are part of a huge family of flowers called Compositae—the Daisy Family.
Goldenrods come in several different shapes. Some of these have long, graceful plumes of yellow, one of which is the tall Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis), which may reach a height of five feet and grows profusely along clearings and roadsides.
Another plume-like one is the Early Goldenrod (Solidago juncea). This looks like the first one, but is quite a bit shorter and is more often found in dry or rocky spaces.
And some of the goldenrods are tall and narrow—the flowers are along the main stem and don’t spread out much. One such is the Hairy Goldenrod (Solidago hispida).
It may be three feet high, has flowers crowded in near the main stem, and, as its name suggests, is very hairy.
There also are some which have their flowers in a sort of flat-topped arrangement. One like this is the Bushy Goldenrod, which grows in damp places.
Another is the Hard-leaved Goldenrod, which, naturally, has very hard, stiff leaves.
You may have noticed a curious thing about some of the tall goldenrod plants. Some of them will have a smooth swelling, perhaps an inch or so in diameter, on the stem.
These are called galls, and many of them are caused by insects. ?
?Some are caused by flies, but more often than not, by tiny gall wasps.
If you open up a gall, you may get a surprise. What you find is a tiny larva, looking something like a wee, smooth caterpillar.
The unusual growth is caused by a chemical introduced by the insect into the plant. As yet, however, no one knows just what it might be.
These goldenrods, along with the asters and a few more, are the flowers which keep the bees busy in the fall.
If you walk through the fields in the warmth of the sun, you will hear the incessant humming of the nectar-gathering insects at work.
So the goldenrods supply some of the fall beauty of this part of the country, though you hay fever sufferers can be pardoned for not seeing this beauty as clearly as some of the rest of us.

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