Home Columns & Editorials Nearby Nature The Golden End of Summer

The Golden End of Summer

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Signs of fall abound, a chill is  in the air,  you can see and hear the familiar V formation of geese flying south, Monarchs flit among the flowers making their way to Mexico, and  the woods are becoming quiet as many songbird species leave for winter. The autumnal equinox announces fall is officially here on September 23, 2014. But to many, Goldenrod, Solidago species, is synonymous with the final days of summer.

One of the most common wildflowers in North America, there are more than 100 species of this perennial plant native to North America. The name solidago means “to make whole” and Goldenrod has been used by many throughout history for medicinal purposes. Hence the common name “woundwort.” Goldenrods vary in height, with the shortest being S. brachystachys (under 12 inches) and the tallest topping out at 4 to 6 feet (S. rigida, S. gigantea, S. rugosa, and S. altissima), and all are characterized by  large clusters of small yellow flowers that appear from the end of summer until frost. Most species propagate by a dense spreading root system called rhizomes in addition to seed. Estimates range from twenty-two to twenty nine different species found growing naturally in Ohio. The majority of the species are found in sunny meadows especially S. canadenis (Canada Goldenrod) and S. graminifolia (Lance Leaved Goldenrod), but there are others quite at home in the partial shade of the woods,   S. flexicaulis (zigzag goldenrod), S. ulmifolia (elm-leaved goldenrod), and S. caesia (wreath goldenrod). There are also goldenrods growing only in bogs or fens (S. uliginosa, S. ohioensis, S. patula, and S. Tenufolia.

Goldenrod gets a bad rap from hay fever sufferers, when it is the Ragweeds (Ambrosia sp.), that should get the blame. Blooming at the same time as Goldenrod, ragweed is the real culprit for the misery of fall allergy season. Ragweed is pollinated by the wind, similarl to grasses, another allergy producer. Only by releasing billions of pollen grains into the wind can they ensure that some will find their way to the female flower of another ragweed plant and produce seed. Again similar to grasses, ragweed does not need visually attractive flower parts. They are an inconspicuous green color. People suffering from allergies in September look for a flower to blame and goldenrod get the rap because they are so visible and abundant. The pollen grains of goldenrod are relatively large, fat, and sticky so that they will adhere to visiting insects and be transferred by them to another flower and are not airborne.

Analogous to a food court at the mall, Goldenrods attracts every manner of insect. Since it is one of the last flowers of the season, bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, flies, and others visit for nectar and pollen. Monarch butterflies rely on the Goldenrod as they make their way to Mexico. Caterpillars, aphids, and other small insects eat the leaves and stems. Wasps, spiders, praying mantis, lacewings, ambush bugs, assassin bugs, beetles, and birds prey on the insects Goldenrod attracts.

Often visible in the winter, many goldenrod stems have strange growths present on their stem and/or at the top of the plant. These are called “galls” and are the homes of three different insects, the Goldenrod Stem Gall Fly, the Goldenrod Gall Moth, and the Goldenrod Gall midge. The larva overwinters inside the gall which provides protection and provides the larva with a food source. The round “apple” or “ball” gall is characteristic of the Gall Fly, the spindle shaped or “elliptical ” gall is characteristic of Gall Moth, and the strange growth at the end of stem of some Goldenrods is the result of the Goldenrod Gall Midge. Once again the Goldenrod provides an important source of food for over wintering birds. Woodpeckers and other birds have learned a tasty snack lives inside these galls and can be seen prying opening the galls during the cold winter months.

What’s in Franklin Bog?

9/28/14   Franklin Bog   2:00 pm -4:00 pm

No it’s not bigfoot or the creature from the Black Lagoon, maybe buried treasure?   Join Park District volunteer naturalist and we will search over hill and dale, well actually a “bog” to see what hidden gems might be lurking there.

Wild Hikes Challenge Guided Hikes Schedule

If you’d rather hike in a group, or learn a little more about nature along the way, please join us on the following naturalist-guided hikes—even if you’re not taking the Wild Hikes Challenge!

Sept. 21 – Chagrin Headwaters Preserve – 2:00 pm

Oct. 5 – Headwaters Trail Rt 700 – 2:00 pm

Oct 26 – Headwaters Trail Buchert Park – 2:00 pm

Nov 9 – Franklin Bog Preserve – 2:00 pm

More Nearby Nature

Dunes Hike  – September 20th at the Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we ramble through one of Ohio’s most unique natural areas. This sand dune community is one of the very few remaining opportunities to see some of Lake Erie’s natural coastal features.  Fall is a great time to visit the beach and explore.  The hike will begin near the information kiosk at 10:00 am located just north of parking lot number 1 at the east end of the Headlands Beach State Park, 9601 Headlands Rd. Mentor, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118.

Fall Tree Identification Hike –  October 11th at Eagle Creek State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we take in the beauty of fall in one of NE Ohio’s most diverse nature preserves. This hike will include some basic tree identification skills and application as we trek through the upland forests and bogs of the preserve. The trees will be “showing their true colors” as we discuss the changes we see in the foliage this time of year. The hike will begin at 10:00am at the preserve parking lot located at 11027 Hopkins Rd. Garrettsville, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118

Kent Bog Fall Foliage Hike October 18th at Kent Bog State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager this fall as we explore the Kent Bog State Nature Preserve during a time of change. We will spend some of our focus on one of only two deciduous conifers in this region of the United States, the Tamarack. The hike will begin at 10:00am at the preserve parking lot located at 1028 Meloy Rd. Kent, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118

Autumn Wetlands Hike October 18th at Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve

Join the preserve manager as we explore the vast wetlands of Tinker’s Creek State Nature Preserve. We will discuss wetland ecology and take time to view the bald eagle nest. This is preserve can also be a spectacular location for any “leaf peepers”! The hike will begin at 1:00pm at the preserve parking lot located at 1230 Old Mill Rd.  Aurora, OH. This is a free hike and registration is not required. For more information contact Adam Wohlever at (330)-527-5118.