Tom's Blog

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Prairie goldenrods in bloom

Despite the drought, we now have quite a few species of goldenrods in full flower, both in the prairies and savannas. Although not as deep rooted as the Silphiums, they seem to be doing quite well, provided the soil is reasonably fertile.

The three species of goldenrods presented here are all flourishing in Toby's Prairie, a dry to dry-mesic site where the soil has developed on sandstone.

Stiff goldenrod
The most common is stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida). This species always does well in prairie seed mixes, and provides a lot of color at the end of the summer. This is a very common species, considered even a weed by Cochrane and Iltis, and may even be found along roadsides and other rights-of-way. It is found all over Wisconsin except for the northeast zone.

Gray goldenrod
Another fairly common goldenrod, although much more restricted in its distribution, is gray goldenrod (S. nemoralis), sometimes called Dyer's weed, old-field goldenrod, or nodding goldenrod. This is much shorter in stature than stiff goldenrod, and hence less conspicuous, but at PVC is often found on dry sites that the other two species don't colonize. We had a native population of this species on one of our tiny prairie remnants, and all of the seeds we have planted came from that local source.

Showy goldenrod
The third species of this genus now in bloom is showy goldenrod (S. speciosa), which is less common than S. rigida but very noticeable because it generally forms patches. There seem to be at least two separate subspecies of S. speciosa at Pleasant Valley Conservancy, one more common on the prairies, the other on savannas. We had a fairly extensive native population of this species in the remnant we call "Toby's Annex", and all of the seed we planted came from there. This was probably the prairie variety. The savanna variety (not shown here) may have got established on its own. It is smaller and has red stems.
Showy goldenrod colony flourishing in Toby's Prairie.
 The most conspicuous goldenrod in bloom right now is one I am not inclined to discuss. This is Canada goldenrod, which is a rather annoying invasive (rhizomatous) weed which seems to thrive anywhere (old fields, prairies, savannas, wetlands, woods edges).


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