Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Solidago pallida but still altissima

with 19 comments

Goldenrod Turned Fluffy 4237

Here are the sentinel remains of goldenrod, Solidago altissima, as they looked on January 3rd of 2012 at the Riata Trace Pond in far north Austin. The species name altissima means ‘very tall,’ so someone’s telling the truth.

If you’d like a reminder of what this kind of goldenrod looks like when it’s flowering, you can glance back at posts from last October 15 and August 18.

If you’d like more information about Solidago altissima, including a clickable map showing the many places in North America where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.

If you’d like some observations on nature photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 3, 6 and 16 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

If you’d like for there not to be any more paragraphs that begin with If you’d like, your wish is granted.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2013 at 6:16 AM

19 Responses

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  1. Goldenrod is hardy and a faithful bloomer. Nice picture of the plant gone to seed. I always enjoy whatever you post. Lots of people believe that this plant causes allergies but truthfully, it generally is not the culprit. Ragweed is usually the bane of people who suffer from allergies in the fall.


    January 5, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    • It seems you’re right that goldenrod has taken a lot of the blame for what ragweed does. Goldenrod relies on insects for pollination, while ragweed depends on the wind and therefore releases lots of pollen into the air.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      • I agree; I included Goldenrod in my school’s garden and some were very concerned….unfairly. But you need need snow with the Goldenrod! That’s how I always see it in the winter.

        Pamela Breitberg

        January 5, 2013 at 6:42 PM

        • Here in Austin we don’t have much of a winter, and although I’ve occasionally seen goldenrod seed heads covered with frost, I’ve never seen any covered with snow. I’d be happy to, if you can arrange for some snow to come our way.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 5, 2013 at 7:14 PM

  2. Perhaps it was the use of pallida that led me to read, “Here are the sentimental remains of goldenrod…” From there, it was only a hop, skip and a mental jump to:

    “Steven, are you grieving
    Over goldenrod unleaving?…”

    If you’d like, I’ll stop now.


    January 5, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    • No doubt your hop to wordplay was spurred by Hopkins, though it might not have been a manly thing of him to prod you like that.

      Etymologically, by the way, sentinel and sentimental are related words, both having to do with the senses (which is also related), so I can see why your mind would substitute one for the other.

      I don’t grieve the unleaving of the goldenrod, but I do grieve fields of it that I’ve found mown down before they could go to seed.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2013 at 10:16 AM

  3. Some musings on seed: I often wonder why the seeds are so small in our wild species. ** Great plants come from such minute beginnings. ** Their production is prolific and therefore assures that some will scatter and take. ** You might think that a larger seed would be better, but the larger seed would probably be eaten! ** Nature likes success and will do whatever it takes to ensure it.

    Still an all time favorite and now growing in my yard. I transplanted a few to more appropriate locations and will be waiting for spring to see if they took. If not, then there will always be plenty of seed in the fall. 😉


    January 5, 2013 at 10:18 AM

    • Those are excellent musings on seed, Lynda. Thanks for publishing them here.

      I’m in accord with you that goldenrod is a great species, so I was surprised some years ago when I was in the Berkshires and a landscaper told me that he had a client who insisted on having all the goldenrod treated as weeds and torn out.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      • Thanks, Steve. I’m glad it is OK, from time to time, to ramble on a bit. I always wonder if I go too far. 😉

        How sad about that uninformed client. He probably thought they were what was causing his allergies to go wild…


        January 5, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        • Not too far at all; good thoughts are always welcome. (By the way, word-lover me couldn’t resist using publish in its original sense of ‘make public.’)

          The client might have thought goldenrod stirs up allergies, but more generally I think a lot of people have become so accustomed to “tidy” cultivated varieties of flowers that they no longer find wildflowers, which are less well behaved, appealing.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 5, 2013 at 12:42 PM

  4. I love this plant and your picture. We have “Solidago canadensis” and everybody consider she is an invasive species and I used to get mad with that.. I think that people are much more invasive!!!


    January 5, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    • Solidago canadensis is quite similar to Solidago altissima, and both grow natively in many parts of North America. I can understand why you’re happy to have some goldenrod near you, even if it’s not native in Europe. As for people being invasive, well, ….

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2013 at 12:31 PM

  5. I love all plants altissima, though this one is new to me. A few daylily hybridizers have worked in the hemerocallis altissima genes into new hybrids in the past few years, with wonderful plants that look you straight in the eye. I love a tall plant 🙂


    January 5, 2013 at 3:33 PM

  6. I find goldenrod more attractive at the seed stage than when in flower. Nice ‘portrait’.


    January 5, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    • Thank you. I try to show species in different stages, and sometimes, like you, I lean toward a phase less conventionally attractive than flowers. There’s something to like in each stage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2013 at 5:56 PM

  7. Sooo…I was right about the “fluff” that I photographed about a year ago, it WAS goldenrod. It looked a lot like this! Plants gone to seed CAN be beautiful. We have lots of goldenrod in Indiana, also a liiiiiittle bit is trying to get started in my garden. I don’t mind…as long as it doesn’t become invasive.


    January 14, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    • So your suspicions have been confirmed. I’m with you in liking the end stages of plants, and I show them in these pages from time to time (but not everyone likes them as much, so I don’t overdo it). I hope the goldenrod in your garden thrives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2013 at 3:59 PM

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