Description & Overview

Riddell’s Goldenrod is a Wisconsin native perennial with smooth, narrow, green leaves surrounding thick stems that are topped with a fan of bright yellow flowers arranged in a flat-topped cluster. As a member of the genus Solidago, it benefits countless native wildlife, pollinators, and birds in wet prairies, wetlands, moist meadows, swamps, limestone seeps, and glades.

Core Characteristics

Category: Perennial

Wisconsin Native: Yes

USDA Hardiness Zone: to zone 2

Mature Height: 18-42 inches

Mature Spread: 18-36 inches

Growth Rate: Perennial

Growth Form: Upright, naturalizes

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Site Requirements: Moist to wet, limy soil

Flower: Yellow, 7-9 rays, the inflorescence is a flat-topped cluster, up to 100 flower heads!

Bloom Period: August – October

Foliage: Lanceolate, green, smooth, folded upwards along the midrib

Fall Color: None

Urban Approved: Yes

Fruit Notes: Smooth seed with fluffy pappus

Suggested Uses

Riddell’s Goldenrod is mostly found in the southeast quadrant of the state, seemingly anywhere there is consistent moisture available such as bioswales, water gardens, wetlands, along ponds and streambanks, swamps, and low ditches.

This species of Goldenrod will be successful in a residential landscape provided there is a retention or natural pond, a stream abutting the property, or low-lying areas in which it is consistently moist to wet. Add to a pollinator garden alongside other moisture-loving natives such as Cardinal Flower, Shreve’s Iris, Turtlehead, or Ironweed.

It is an excellent option for restoration purposes as clonal offsets are produced which can help with soil retention in wetter sites.

Riddell's Goldenrod is a Wisconsin native perennial with smooth, narrow, green leaves surrounding thick stems that are topped with a fan of bright yel…

Wildlife Value

A truly staggering amount of insects use Riddell’s Goldenrod. The late bloom time benefits those migrating butterflies such as Monarchs. Other moths and butterflies such as the Black-and-yellow Lichen moth (Lycomorpha pholus), Edwards’ Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii), Bog Fritillary (Boloria eunomia), Common Branded Skipper (Hesperia comma), White-M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m album), Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops), Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene), Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus), and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) use Showy Goldenrod as a nectar source.

Many insects use Goldenrod as a host plant, meaning larval stages of all kinds of insects rely on it for sustenance until they reach adulthood. The list is long and includes Solidago Eucosma (Eucosma cataclystiana), Goldenrod Gall moth (Epiblema scudderiana), Goldenrod Borer Plume moth (Hellinsia kellicottii), Tufted Apple-bud moth (Platynota idaeusalis), Ruby Tiger moth (Phragmatobia fuliginosa), Confused Eusarca (Eusarca confusaria), White-spotted Sable moth (Anania funebris), The Asteroid (Cucullia asteroids), Dark-spotted Palthis (Palthis angulalis), Brown-hooded Owlet (Cucullia convexipennis), Speyer’s Hooded Owlet (Cucullia speyeri), Black Blister Gall Midge (Asteromyia caronifera), Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata), White-dotted Groundling (Condica videns), Common Tan Wave (Pleuroprucha insulsaria), Blackberry Looper moth (Chlorochlamys chloroleucaria), Beautiful Phaneta moth (Phaneta formosana), and more.

More than 19 types of mining bees (Andrena spp., Pseudopanurgus spp.) use species in the Asteraceae family as their host plant, Riddell’s Goldenrod being one of them. Other species include the Small Miner bee (Pseudopanurgus parvus), Small Black Miner bee (Pseudopanurgus andrenoides), Yellow-faced Miner bee (Andrena aliciae), Peaceful Miner bee (Andrena placata), Peckham’s Miner bee (Andrena peckhami), Hairy-banded Miner bee (Andrena hirticincta), and Cloudy-winged Miner bee (Andrena nubecula).

At least 10 species of long-horned bees also use species in the Asteraceae family as their host plant including the Agile Long-horned bee (Melissodes agilis), Melissodes nivea, Melissodes ilata, and Melissodes menuachus. Other bees that may use Solidago as a host plant include the Sunflower bee (Svastra obliqua), the Cellophane Bee (Colletes compactus), and the Spine-shouldered Cellophane bee (Colletes simulans).

Ants, beetles, leafhoppers, and lace bugs are also visitors of Showy Goldenrod. Gallfly larvae form spherical galls in the stems and overwinter in them. This provides excellent food for Chickadees and woodpeckers during winter.

Seeds are abundant. Most of them are consumed by insects before dispersal but birds also love the seeds. Eastern Goldfinches particularly relish the seeds, perching on the sturdy and rigid stems, to nosh away and enjoy their meal. The Wisconsin Threatened-listed Greater Prairie Chickens will also eat the seeds.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means. Suffice it to say, do not underestimate the importance of the genus Solidago in our native habitat.

Maintenance Tips

With inadequate moisture, Riddell’s Goldenrod’s growth will be stunted. Make sure they are planted in the right location with ample moisture.

Slowly spreads via rhizomes which can easily be controlled by hand pulling or mowing.

Leaves will start to desiccate and dehisce as the blooms start opening up. This is normal and draws your eyes to the beautiful flowers instead!

Do not fertilize. Overly fertile soil will cause the stems to flop over.

There is no need to cut Goldenrod down in autumn, as wildlife uses the seeds for nourishment.

Riddell's Goldenrod is a Wisconsin native perennial with smooth, narrow, green leaves surrounding thick stems that are topped with a fan of bright yel…

Pests/Problems

Black Walnut Tolerant: Yes
Deer Resistant: Yes
Rabbit Resistant: Yes

Powdery mildew may occur if planted in an area with poor air circulation. While impossible to eliminate all overhead watering (rain), minimizing the amount as much as possible will help with this issue, too. Periodic thinning to increase airflow will also help reduce mildew.

Native plants are meant to look wild. Many insects will benefit from the leaves, flowers, and stems, which may leave marks, holes, or galls. This is part of the native aesthetic and should be embraced rather than looked at with a discerning eye.

Deer, voles, and rabbits will occasionally browse the foliage, but this is not their preferred food source.

Beavers and muskrats will feed on the stems and use them in the construction of their dams or lodges.

Leaf Lore

The genus name Solidago is from the Latin word solidus meaning “to make whole” or “to heal” and ago in reference to the medicinal healing properties of some species of plants. The specific epithet speciosa means “showy.”

Mistakenly associated with hay fever, Goldenrod is not the bane of allergy sufferers (blame ragweed) and is unfairly considered a weed by many.

“There is some disagreement among taxonomists on how Riddell’s Goldenrod and other flat-topped Goldenrods should be classified. Following Mohlenbrock (2013), these Goldenrods have been assigned to the Oligoneuron genus, rather than the Solidago genus of the more typical goldenrods. One reason for this is that Riddell’s Goldenrod and other flat-headed Goldenrods can hybridize with each other, but not with other goldenrods.”-Riddell’s Goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii)

Riddell’s Goldenrod can hybridize with Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) and Upland White Goldenrod (Solidago ptarmicoides).

Indigenous peoples used Solidago in different ways. The Chippewa, among others, used different species of Goldenrod as an external application to treat cramps, fever, burns, pulmonary issues, toothaches, and colic, and as an anti-convulsive. Meskwai used Goldenrod as a smudge directed up the nose to revive unconscious patients. The goldenrod served the Omaha as a mark or sign in their floral calendar. When they were on the summer buffalo hunt, the sight of the goldenrod indicated to them that their corn was beginning to ripen at home.”

Companion Plants

Other native wet-prairie options include Shreve’s Iris (Iris virginica var. shrevei), White Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana), Palm Sedge (Carex muskingumensis), Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), Sweet Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia subtomentosa), Spotted Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), Dense Blazingstar (Liatris spicata), and Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis).

Add contrasting textures and complimentary colors by combining Showy Goldenrod with Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), Sky Blue Aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia), Willowleaf Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana), Heavy Metal Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’), Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta), Dense Blazing Star (Liatris spicata), Kodiak Orange Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla x ‘G2X88544’ PP27,548), Delphiniums (Delphinium spp), Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and Blackhawks Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii ‘Blackhawks’).

Riddell's Goldenrod is a Wisconsin native perennial with smooth, narrow, green leaves surrounding thick stems that are topped with a fan of bright yel…
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Written by Beth DeLain