What’s New In Nature: Flowering Goldenrods

Field of flowering goldenrod and little bluestem grass at Tupancy Links.

Field of flowering goldenrod and little bluestem grass at Tupancy Links.

Once the yellow of the goldenrod flowers begins popping up in Nantucket’s grasslands and through the road edges in the Middle Moors fall weather is not fall behind. Goldenrods are in the Asteraceae plant family – the largest plant family including sunflowers, daisies, thistles to name a few.

Chain Dot Geometer feeding on goldenrod Photo Credit: KA Omand

Chain Dot Geometer feeding on goldenrod Photo Credit: KA Omand

On Nantucket, there are an estimated 20 different species of goldenrod, primarily Solidago and Euthamia species such as Seaside goldenrod, Flat-top goldenrod, and many more. These goldenrod species can be very difficult to tell apart although you can use online resources like GoBotany to try your hand at!

Elliot's goldenrod

Elliot’s goldenrod

Goldenrods are often mistakenly accused of causing a spike in fall allergies but the real culprit is usually the less noticeable ragweed (Artemesia sp). Ragweed is wind pollinated, filling the air with pollen in early fall but goldenrod pollen is heavier and stickier,  typically needing insects to move it around! So enjoy the gorgeous fall color across the island!

Gall on the stem of a goldenrod plant

Gall on the stem of a goldenrod plant

Goldenrods also provide food and shelter over the winter to various insect larvae which can cause the goldenrod stem to form a gall, as seen above. Galls can be many shapes and sizes, with each insect species creating its own unique gall style. Parasitoid wasps will often lay eggs on these larvae and some birds have learned to peck the galls open for food. Goldenrods are at the center of a whole small food web and make a great teaching lab for exploring ecology! Check these website for guides to using the goldenrod and its galls in our outdoor exploration:

Goldenrod Gall Flies

Goldenrod Gall Size and Natural Selection

http://zol355lta.wikispaces.com/Goldenrod+Gall+Lab

 

Prepared by: Jennifer M. Karberg, NCF Science and Stewardship Staff

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us!

 www.nantucketconservation.org

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