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This is one of the few keystone flowering forbs that grows in dry shade, and probably plays an important connecting role across Appalachia. It can be found in very acidic nutrient poor forested mountainous areas such as Oak-Heath forests, and can grow in dry shade, a notoriously difficult landscaping challenge in the cultivated garden.
In ideal conditions in cultivation (average moisture well-drained soil and bright part-shade), Wreath Goldenrod forms a 3′ x 3′ mound of arching leaves dotted with small yellow flowers that can brighten any garden bed or pathway. Because it is clump-forming and needs weeding to keep it from being overwhelmed by more vigorous plants, it is unlikely to become weedy itself, making it an excellent choice for introducing goldenrods to the garden. As with all goldenrods, the pollen does not actually cause allergies, as it is too heavy to be windborn, though it has been blamed for this, a misperception that lives on in popular imagination.
Although not surveyed by the Flora in Floyd County, and therefore not categorized as native to Floyd, it is worth trying here and will surely host Lepidoptera and provide nectar to many native bees, butterflies, and more. Goldenrods exist in every ecosystem in North America, and provide a lifeline for thousands of species of insects and animals. Dr. Doug Tallamy (Homegrown National Park, Nature’s Best Hope) has identified goldenrods as a keystone species without which lifewebs fail. From the National Wildlife Federation’s 2017 article, Worth Their Weight in Gold: “Tallamy’s studies show that goldenrods provide food and shelter for 115 butterfly and moth species in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic alone. More than 11 native bee species feed specifically on the plants, and in fall, monarch butterflies depend on them for nectar to fuel their long migrations. Even in winter, songbirds find nourishment from goldenrod seed heads long after the blossoms have faded.” (Wexler, 2017) According to the NWF’s Native Plant Finder, Solidagos host 114 species of butterflies and moths in the Floyd area.
Virginia Heritage Community Type Hallmark
Solidago caesia is a definining member of Inner Piedmont / Lower Blue Ridge Basic Oak-Hickory Forests [USNVC CEGL008514, Quercus rubra – Quercus montana – Carya ovalis / (Cercis canadensis) / Solidago (caesia, curtisii) Forest (G3G4/S3S4)], a type of Basic Oak – Hickory Forest. These old oak and hickory forests can be found on semi-dry to semi-moist, rocky, acidic or circumneutral soils high in “base cations” (calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and aluminum), usually midslope, and at lower elevations (450-3100 ft). Above 2,800 ft these types of forests are found only on south and west facing slopes where it is warmer. Downtown Floyd is located at 2,493 ft elevation. Floyd County does have one site surveyed along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but Solidago caesia was not found there.
In other places around the state in this type of forest, Solidago caesia grows at the base of old oaks and hickories alongside Desmodium nudiflorum (Naked-Flowered Tick-trefoil), Dioscorea quaternata (Wild Yam), Galium circaezans (Forest Bedstraw), Circaea lutetiana ssp. canadensis (Enchanter’s Nightshade), Amphicarpaea bracteata (Hog Peanut), Botrychium virginianum (Rattlesnake Fern), Geum virginianum (Cream Avens), Phryma leptostachya (American Lopseed), Actaea racemosa (Black Cohosh), Aristolochia serpentaria (Virginia Snakeroot), Dryopteris marginalis (Marginal Wood Fern), and Aralia nudicaulis (Wild Sarsparilla). In the spring, the white flowers of Cardamine concatenata (Cutleaf Toothwort), Thalictrum thalictroides (Rue Anemone), and Claytonia virginica (Spring Beauty) carpet the forest floor. (Source: NatureServe, USNV CEGL008514).