Updated: Nov 25, 2021
Goldenrod is prolific in many pastures this year. Often blamed for causing severe allergies in late summer, the plant does not release pollen to the wind. (Charlene Sims/Linn County Journal)
Before talking about ragweed and goldenrod, I would like to thank the Linn County road crews for keeping roadsides and intersections mowed because it makes driving a lot safer.
But there is one drawback to late-season mowing: Many beautiful wildflowers are found along those roadside and we do not get to see many of them.
One of the pretty yellow flowers that is blooming right now is goldenrod. Many people look at it and automatically want to sneeze. But unless you’ve been specifically diagnosed as allergic to goldenrod, it probably is ragweed that's giving you sneezing fits. Both wildflowers bloom at the same time.
It‘s just that goldenrod stands out more. In fact, goldenrod produces very little pollen and depends on insects for pollination unlike ragweed which has a lot of pollen and depends on the wind to spread it to other plants.
Goldenrod, from the family Solidago, flowers in late summer with beautiful yellow plumes of flowers. Many people include goldenrod in their gardens because it provides nectar for butterflies and bees. It also attracts good insects that then attack the damaging insects in your garden.
Foragers use all parts of the plant above ground. They use the flowers fresh or dried as tea, and the leaves are used like spinach.
Solidago in Latin means to “make whole or heal”. Healthline.com summarizes the benefits of the Solidago plants as having valuable plant compounds, including saponins, which have anti-fungal effects and flavonoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions.”
Like common ragweed, just taller
A friend of mine was over one day and asked what that 6-plus foot weed was growing next to a gravel pile next to a driveway in our yard. My reply: ragweed. She disagreed with me, so that sent me searching to verify that it was ragweed.
The weed that we have in our yard is giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) which can grow very tall but starts out looking like just another small weed in the yard. One of the identifying characteristics of Giant Ragweed is that some of its palmately lobed leaves have five points and other leaves on the same plant have only three.
This plant, while a nightmare for allergy sufferers, is a source of food and protective cover for insects and some songbirds.
Despite ragweed’s misery-producing pollen, it is edible and while bitter is actually good for you. The seeds have a high percentage of crude protein rivaling that of corn, wheat and soybean in usable calories. Native peoples crushed the seeds, boiled them and made a nutritious oil.
The crushed leaves are an astringent which makes them effective in treating bug bites and rashes. Modern science has also discovered that ragweed can help remove toxic heavy metals like lead from the soil.
If planted in contaminated soil, they can clean up industrial waste and improve the soil. They are then burned not composted. This is definitely a reason to not use plants from roadsides or contaminated areas for consumption.
Common ragweed leaves are pinnatifid or have leaves in a featherlike arrangement with narrow lobes whose clefts extend halfway down the axis. Common ragweed
has similar seed head and the same issues with allergies but tends to have some different uses.
Since the area around our farm seems to be full of the giant ragweed, I just concentrated on this plant.
For information on the medicinal uses of goldenrod or ragweed, search medical websites. Before consuming any plant, research it so that you can properly identify it, understand its uses and possible side effects.