Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Goldenrod flowering in March

with 27 comments

When I saw a bit of goldenrod flowering in Austin on February 27th I was surprised, and when I found some more in the Southwest Greenway at the old Mueller Airport on March 14th I was surprised again. That’s because normally the earliest we’d expect any Solidago species to flower here is late summer, with the peak coming in the fall. Coincidentally, when I saw the goldenrod flowering in February it was on the same outing that brought you the way-out-of-season Maximilian sunflowers that appeared here earlier this month.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 26, 2019 at 4:37 AM

27 Responses

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  1. I found a very few stems of seaside goldenrod at the Brazoria refuge in February, and on Sunday a friend who was with me at the Varner-Hogg plantation pointed to a little yellow flower and asked, “What’s this?” It was goldenrod, although I’m not certain which species. With that blue sky and wind-wisped clouds for a background, your little plant certainly feels like summer.


    March 26, 2019 at 6:57 AM

    • It’s good to know that out-of-season goldenrod is springing up in other places. Like your two sightings, mine were limited to just a few flowering stalks. What made those so precocious, I don’t know. The wispy clouds present at my second encounter beckoned me down on the ground to include them behind the goldenrod.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2019 at 7:08 AM

  2. It’s a little like Christmas lights still on the house in July: is it too early, or too late? That said, the shot is great and that wisp of cloud–perfection!


    March 26, 2019 at 10:44 AM

    • I like your Christmas lights metaphor. As for the question you asked, I’ve asked myself that too. I’ve occasionally seen fall-blooming plants keep on through a mild winter into spring. That was the case with a goldeneye in my neighborhood, which flowered a little just a few weeks ago. With the goldenrod, I really don’t know if it was lingering from the fall or greatly preceding the summer. I’m much better at photographing plants than understanding them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2019 at 11:26 AM

      • You’re excellent at photographing plants and besides, who really understands them? 🙂 I also had some summer/fall bloomers which kept right on blooming until they were dinged with that “late” (only!) freeze in early March.


        March 26, 2019 at 12:57 PM

        • Ah, so you also had some flowers well past their traditional time. I wonder how common that has become.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 26, 2019 at 2:51 PM

    • By the way, at least some of the wispy clouds were dissipated contrails, which was appropriate above Austin’s former airport.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 26, 2019 at 11:28 AM

      • Oh, that’s interesting, and yes, appropriate.


        March 26, 2019 at 12:58 PM

  3. Wow that is an interesting time for that to bloom! Great shot though, love the blue sky behind it

    M.B. Henry

    March 26, 2019 at 12:11 PM

  4. This is sort of a scary one. I have seen them growing on the side of a roadway here, and it has gotten established in parts of Monterey County. So, by the time it had been noticed, it was already established as in invasive exotic species, and there is nothing I can do about it. It is still at a distance from here, but I do not know if that will last.


    March 27, 2019 at 11:19 PM

    • I do not know what species our is.


      March 27, 2019 at 11:20 PM

    • Sorry to hear about another invasive in California. The goldenrod shown here may be season-hopping but at least it’s a native species. A few years ago I was saddened to see that goldenrod had gotten established in Europe after early colonists here liked it and sent samples back to Europe.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 28, 2019 at 6:07 AM

      • What amazes me is that it is still done now. People still bring plants that they like from where they came from, and so much is available from online purchases. To make it worse, treehuggers want to protect the invasive exotics. Well, I ranted enough about that already.


        March 29, 2019 at 8:27 AM

  5. the entire planet seems to be confused… yes, i associate goldenrod with blooms at the end of a long hot summer…. still it’s nice to see the bold splash of yellow, even if it’s a bit backwards with the calendar!

  6. Beautiful!!


    April 4, 2019 at 5:48 AM

  7. It can look disquieting to us to see nature doing odd things, but plants, insects and animals will all have to do some adjusting to the new realities we humans are bringing about and we will have to let go of our notions of what things are “supposed” to look like. I’ve been reading some interesting studies that show that in some areas plants are greening up and blooming earlier, while other species in the same ecosystem are actually blooming later. They are seeing the same pattern in birds, with some arriving earlier and others arriving later. Some species will no doubt wink out, which will be very sad, while other species will thrive and take over new territory. We can either see them as invaders, and fight them, or we can watch and allow nature to adjust in her own way. Even if we weren’t causing the widespread changes we are, by importing species and by warming the climate, there would continue to be flux. This is something many in the ecological field struggle to remember.
    That said, decades of field study shows that we have already lost 35% of our insects, worldwide. That is definitely somber news. The studies reveal that both insectivore and predatory insects are being lost, and so now the mechanisms that are causing it need to be discovered. Some are obvious, such as habitat loss. Anyone who is willing to create a wild corner in their yard will be helping create habitat. What is best is if neighbors band together to create contiguous bands of habitat running through neighborhoods. This can support a surprising number of species. Also, the use of chemicals needs to be curtailed. Statistics show that homeowners use considerably more chemicals than agriculture does, and these chemicals don’t simply go away. They filter down to the subsoil and the water table, forming chemical soups that are exceedingly toxic.
    We can all do something about this, by planting native plants in our yards, forgo the weed&feed, and encourage farmers to grow organically by buying organic produce.


    April 7, 2019 at 10:05 AM

    • Remember Heraclitus’s ancient adages to the effect that you never step into the same river twice and there is nothing permanent but change. When Eve and I watched a video series on the history of the earth we learned how very many times it has undergone changes, some of them drastic. There’s good evidence that in one era the earth was a giant iceball:


      As you said, flux is something many in the ecological field struggle to remember. When it comes to getting people in neighborhoods to set aside native habitats and give up or even just reduce their use of chemicals, well, my experience makes that seem unlikely. When Austin has proposed new parks, many people have pushed for them to be covered with athletic fields and the like. You’ve seen my recent comments about some people wanting to get wildflowers mowed down in their prime. You won’t be surprised to hear I’ve been decrying mowers since well before this blog began in 2011.

      On the good side, there are occasional successes, like the time people in my part of town raised money to buy back land that had been sold at auction, then donated the land to the city to be added to Great Hills Park.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 7, 2019 at 11:22 AM

      • I am comforted by the good news at the end of your comment. I just read about a scientific paper entitled, “Mind the Gap”, in which the researchers discovered that no matter how well informed people are about things like global warming or pollution, they still don’t change their actions. There persists a stubborn gap between education and behavior. It makes me feel you can either despair, or find some way toward acceptance that still contains joy. One author chose to live as if his actions matter, and let history decide. I’m with him, even in the face of that dratted gap.


        April 7, 2019 at 12:45 PM

  8. That is hilarious. And, you know, not a bad idea.


    April 8, 2019 at 8:35 AM

  9. I’d be quite shocked to see any Solidago species here before late summer. But there is a species known to be spring-flowering in the southeast, Solidago verna which, of course, I have never seen and only heard of. Nice to see yours with the nice blue sky and soft clouds

    Steve Gingold

    April 10, 2019 at 2:39 AM

    • Like you, I’ve heard of but never seen the spring-flowering goldenrod. It remains to be seen whether the goldenrods in Austin will take to flowering early more often than these stray occurrences. Getting down low and aiming up let me not only have the clouds as a backdrop but also exclude the manmade objects nearby.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2019 at 7:11 AM

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