Solidago caesia, Wreath Goldenrod

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.

Cultivation

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.

By planting just one of these keystone plants you can help restore native biodiversity! Landscapes that do not contain one or more species of keystone genera will have failed food webs, even if the diversity of other plants is very high.

Doug Tallamy, Nature’s Best Hope

Ecology

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‚Äôs 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).

PLANT FACTS


Scientific Name

Solidago caesia

Other names: Blue-Stemmed Goldenrod, Bluestem Goldenrod, Woodland Goldenrod, Axillary Goldenrod

Family: Asteraceae (asters).

Native Status

Native to Floyd County

Native Range Map (Virginia Counties) for Solidago caesia

Source: Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora

Native to Central and Eastern North America, from New Brunswick to Manitoba and south to Florida and Texas.

Other Floyd County native Solidago: S. altissima var. altissima, S. arguta, S. arguta var. caroliniana, S. bicolor, S. canadensis var. hargeri, S. curtisii, S. erecta, S. flexicaulis, S. juncea, S. nemoralis var. nemoralis, S. patula, S. randii, S. rigida var. rigida, S. roanensis, S. rugosa, S. rugosa var. aspera, S. rugosa var. rugosa, S. speciosa var. speciosa, S. ulmifolia var. ulmifolia.

Culture Notes

Height: 2-3 ft, Spacing guide: 2-3 ft. Bloom Color: Yellow. Bloom Time: Fall (Aug-Oct). Light: Part shade to full shade. Moisture: Semi-dry to medium (submesic to mesic) conditions. Soils: Not picky, tolerates calcium carbonate.

Habitat

USDA Zones: 4-9. National Wetland Status Indicator: FACU. C-Value: 6. Successional Role: Subclimax, stable.

Virginia Ecology

Virginia Habitat: "Mesic to dry upland forests, woodlands, and clearings. Frequent to common throughout, but mostly below 900 m (3000 ft) elevation in the mountains." (The Flora, 2023). Virginia Natural Communities: Rich Cove Forests, Acidic Cove Forests, Montane Dry and Dry-Mesic Calcareous Forests, Basic Oak - Hickory Forests, Acidic Oak - Hickory Forests, Montane Mixed Oak and Oak - Hickory Forests, Oak / Heath Forests, Eastern White Pine - Hardwood Forests, Low-Elevation Boulderfield Forests, Mountain / Piedmont Basic Woodlands, Limestone / Dolostone Woodlands and Barrens, Low-Elevation Outcrop Barrens, Mountain / Piedmont Cliffs, Mountain / Piedmont Seepage Swamps, Piedmont / Mountain Small-Stream Alluvial Forests

Ecosystem Services

*Keystone for Lepidoptera, *Keystone for Native Bees, *Of Special Value to Native Bees, *Of Special Value to Bumblebees, *Of Special Value to Honeybees, *Of Special Value to Native Butterflies

Wildlife Supported: Butterflies, bees, beetles, birds especially finches, small mammals, and other insects. Hosts 114 species of butterflies and moths in the Floyd area according to the NWF's Native Plant Finder.

Propagation

Propagate from seed Seed Germination: C60 - 60 days cold moist stratification required

Where to Buy

Prairie Moon Nursery, Prairie Nursery, New Moon Nursery