Goldenrod and the fall family of plants lend lovely colour to any fall day. Yet,with the arrival of cooler temperature, all many of us can think about when looking at the gardens coming to rest, is the long list of things to be done before the arrival of winter. In fact, I even wrote an article on my chores list, which is hanging nicely on the fridge door, waiting for me to tick things off.
While I have trimmed the shrubs along the driveway and tackled the honeysuckle that was threatening to leave the trellis and head for the neighbouring pine, very little else has been done. When time is available I am currently sitting on the front porch soaking up the warm sunshine and admiring the two pots of mums there.
Not to be outdone are the glorious purple Asters standing tall and waving their heads in the wind. These blooms are just another example of inspiration personified, as the plant traveled from the wildflower patch behind my cottage several years ago, to my city garden.
As hybridization of wildflowers to domestic species, plants are acclimatized from countries around the world and xeriscaping becomes more popular, once common field flowers like Goldenrod and the fall family are spreading to gardens everywhere. Certainly one example I have grown personally is Goldenrod, which grows in mass behind my country home as well as in the front and back in the gardens of my permanent urban residence.
In fact, recently a city dweller went past my tall stand of yellow blooms and proceeded to tell me that despite being pretty, I should not be growing it “as people are allergic to it.” In defense of the wrongfully blamed plant, I proceeded to give her a mini lecture based on information I read, as a hay fever sufferer.
Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky and can’t be blown by the wind . In fact the bright yellow need to attract insects to spread the plants pollen. On the other hand, Ragweed’s pollen is lightweight and spreads easily in the breeze. Combine this easy of movement with the larger number of spikes in its surface and it is easy to understand why Ragweed is considered the main respiratory irritant of hay fever.
Despite having this information, I had little else to add except bees, wasps and other assorted bugs love the flowers. In fact, until I took several photographs of the yellow flowers, I had no idea of the mass of tiny buds that each golden stem or rod contains.
When I explored further I found that this “wildflower” with many species, has been prized as a garden plant in British gardens and now in American ones since about 1980. But in many other countries including China and Germany it has become an invasive species that is causing problems with the areas natural habitat.
With a natural habitat consisting of both domestically grown plants and now some wild country relatives, my garden has become a family affair. In fact, when I checked in to the “Family” and Genus of both the Goldenrod and the Aster, I was surprised to learn that they too belong to family Asteraceae , as did the Chrysanthemum in my last Post.
Certainly I can see the similarity in the bloom of the star shaped mini-petaled Aster and the more heavily laden Mums, but the tiny florets of the Goldenrod and fall family, seen entirely unrelated until I read further on this Family.
Asteraceae are mostly herbaceous plants, but there are also some shrubs, trees and even climbers in the family. One characteristic the plants in this family share is something called inflorecence. Here is where I got the connection as inflorescence is a group of cluster of flowers arranged on a stem, main branch or group of branches. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Goldenrod all have flowers that are grouped along a naim stem of smaller stems off the main one.
According to data there are 41 invasive weeds worldwide that are classed as Ragweed plants, all of which are also part of the big Asteraceae family. The flower clusters along the stems in this case are not pretty as they do not need to attract insects to spread their pollen. On a dry windy day is it estimated that this wind-borne pollen is transmitted many Kilometers. In addition, each plant is estimated to be able to release over a billion grains of pollen in the late summer through fall which spread the plants growth and makes it the number one allergen of Hay Fever.
Armed with a picture of one big Fall Family in my head, I decided reading more about what characteristics this family has was a good idea. However, further reading on plant classification and trying to connect the dots between family, genus, species, etc, revealed an overwhelming amount of information. Of course not only was it fascinating, but it was very complicated with one thing leading to another, as if the seed of an idea has sprouted more branches and definitions than my poor brain can comprehend.
One thing I did get was the plant world is composed of families where the plants are not all the same size, shape or colour but they share a set of growing conditions. Keeping this in mind as I continued to read, helped me to relate this to humans across the world and the differences that make up our one global family.
Goldenrod and Fall family of flowers provide not only lovely blooms but also the inspiration for further research in to the nomenclature of botany .Certainly my condensed version will amount to shrinking all the information on the evolution of life, in to a few hundred words…but that’s another post to write…think I’ll give it a go!