Monday, November 3, 2008


I look up from my reading to look out the window of our dining room door. Golden yellow leaves of the sugar maple by the lower woodshed contrast with the dark green of the spruce planted by the previous owners. The tops of the grassy field south of the house that we have let grow up wave a bit, but what really catches my eye and my fancy are the goldenrod.

True to their name miniature golden blossoms lined the stems of these tall plants this fall. Bees swarmed them cheerfully, and the praying mantis in the backyard walked the canopy they made. Leaf-tying caterpillars wove their way through their leaves as it ate. They appear to be the first to move in if one chooses not to mow. Encroaching from the fenceline, they dot our yard everywhere much to my delight.

The variety of goldenrod is tremendous - shaped like actual rods, clumps, or branching like tree tops - they grow in shade, sun, woods, prairie, wet, and dry. Their leaves vary along with their blossom shapes, and their height ranges from just to my shins to my elbow and above. Often confused with ragweed, the goldenrod is blamed for the increased sneezing some experience along with itchy eyes and runny nose. The pollen from goldenrod is too heavy to move about much, and they rely on bees, butterflies, moths, and birds to help pollinate them. (Ragweed gives its pollen up to the wind, and hence it lands in our noses and eyes resulting in a boon for the tissue industry.)

Often considered a weed, the goldenrods in our yard are welcome additions to our landscape. Along with the asters (relatives of the goldenrod) and milkweed the goldenrod brings pollinators and welcomes predators to my garden. Its deep roots stabilize the soil and absorb rainwater. It signifies an ecosystem continuing to return to health. Perhaps selfishly, it brings me joy each time I see it. Joy to know the insects in my world have a place to eat and feed their young. Joy to see the yellow blooms in autumn light.

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