In Defense of Goldenrod

I find myself defending goldenrod every year about this time. My first memory of the false accusation that it causes allergies came when I was ten or so. My mother had some kind of meeting. As usual, she did one of her beautiful flower arrangements for the table. Goldenrod served as the anchor and was finished with a mixture of other fall flowers. Mama regularly treated wild flowers with the same esteem as her cultivated ones. She also liked Queen Anne’s Lace and used it in my wedding arrangements.

One of the ladies who attended the meeting commented as soon as she spotted the flowers that she was very allergic to goldenrod. Mama took the flowers out and dumped them. As best I can remember, she never again used them in an arrangement when anyone would be with us other than family.

For the record, there are many species of goldenrod – all beautiful and none allergenic. The problem is that they are prominent to the eye at the same time that the nondescript ragweed is blooming. They get the blame for the problem caused by the ragweed, which has pollen that can blow as far as 100 miles. I liken it to the schoolboy who gets punished for an outburst when a little girl has been kicking him under the table for fifteen minutes.

I love the golden spikes as they herald the beginning of fall, my favorite season of the year. I didn’t have any in my yard when I moved here, and I share Mama’s nondiscriminatory policy toward wildflowers. I pulled off a few seed heads from roadside blooms when I went for my daily walk the first year I was here and just threw them out a couple of places around the yard. Since they are prolific re-seeders, I now have a satisfying number around the edges of my yard each fall. And the spectacular fields of them and black-eyed Susans between my house and the dentist’s office shortens my 35 mile trip north this time of year.

So if you have the opportunity to relish some goldenrod, just enjoy. But do your best not to get within a hundred miles of the ragweed.