Is Goldenrod aggravating your allergies? Nope, not likely. How do I know? Because it has bees! Goldenrod has sticky pollen that attracts and sticks to insects who then carry it around to do the pollination thing. Alternately, wind pollinated plants have light and airy pollen that spreads by air. The only way that Goldenrod pollen is going up your nose is if you stick your face in it. The real culprit is Ragweed, whose innocuous green blooms produce billions of delicate pollen particles that can travel invisibly through the air for miles, and make millions (of people) miserable. They open at the same time as Goldenrod's bright yellow, hightly visible flowers. So guess who gets the blame?
There are close to 100 native species of Goldenrod (Solidago), some of them rather aggressive, but many are well worth considering for your garden. We love the one called “Fireworks”. And, of course, they are all great for bees, and hundreds of other beneficiall insects as well. Go Goldenrod!
And, just to be fair, Ragweed (Ambrosia) is a native plant too. It provides food for over 400 different insects.
A Sad note: I took these photos recently on a field trip in Ohio. There were farm fields all around. There was not a bee to be found.
The Ten Commitments
If the dire news of the climate crisis is making you feel overwhelmed, why not make some promises to a piece of earth. If everyone made their property, or one they frequent, into a natural refuge, there would be much less to worry about.Here are some of our promises…send us one of yours.
1. I will think of my place as my friend, my family. I will work with, not against it, and do it no harm. It will be a sanctuary.
2. I will let this place keep all that it produces: no biomass will leave the property.
3. I will make a compost pile, even if I probably won’t turn it.
4. I will carefully consider everything I bring here—can it be used for a long time, can it be composted or repurposed, does it really need to be plastic?
5. I will use no toxic synthetic chemicals.
6. I will take a moment to learn about an insect before I decide if I really need to kill it.
7. I will plant native plants to provide habitat for insects and birds.
8. I will get to know the names of all the plants, animals and insects that live in this place, or at least the big ones.
9. I will reduce the size of my lawn to just what gets used.
10. I will let go a bit, let nature be my collaborator, and help me keep my promises.
KEEP OR KILL?
A friend called recently to ask for our opinion on a backyard situation. A large number of caterpillars were descending from webs in a tree and nibbling on his plants. He called in a tree expert who recommended that the offending tree be cut down and removed. Was this truly the only way to manage the problem?
Happily, we could tell him to do nothing: keep the tree, and not to worry about the plants. The caterpillars are Fall Webworms, whose webs start showing up in late summer.
The parents are pretty little white moths. They are native to the US; highly prolific, they lay their eggs in sunny spots on a large variety of host trees. The eggs hatch into the “worms” which weave the nest (same as silk worms). The nests protect them from predators, but they must come out to eat more leaves.
As it is late in the growing season, the leaves they eat have already done their photosynthetic job and losing some of them to the webworms is no real loss to the parent plant. Many of the caterpillars will in turn become food--for birds and predator insects who need the protein for migrating or overwintering.
So, just let them be.
Sadly, the people who don’t know about all this may be spraying, pruning, or even chopping down a whole tree. Compare that to what a few little caterpillars can do.
Note: Our last tip mentioned that milkweed doesn’t provide resources for anything but Monarch butterflies. This is not true, there are a large number of butterflies, bees and insects that benefit from milkweed, and I was quickly brought to task by some of our well informed readers, many thanks to them. Here’s more https://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/Wings_sp11_milkweed.pdf
On Beyond Milkweed
July 23, 2019
On Beyond Milkweed
Now that everyone LOVES milkweed, what’s next? Milkweed only serves one insect, the Monarch Butterfly. You can do more! How about adding some other historically “weedy” native wildflowers to your garden and expand the pollinator banquet? How about Thistles? They provide pollen, nectar, leaves and seeds for hundreds of insect and bird species. They are beautiful and structural, and seriously deer proof! There are some invasive ones and massive eradication programs have pretty much wiped out the good with the bad, so...
Do your bit for the good ones, get to know your thistle.
If the answer to ALL these questions is NO, you probably have a native, let it be!
Is the thistle spiny along the entire length of the stem?
Are the bracts (the bulbous part below the brushy flower) triangular, firm, and spine-tipped?
Are the bracts thick, and leathery, and jagged?
Are the roots rhizomatous (running underground and popping up all over)?
The thistle in the photo inspired this tip. Found it growing in my yard, Goldfinches love the seed. Somewhat common on LI, endangered in Ct. Keep an eye out for some of your own and welcome it to your expanding world of pollinator plants.
Thanks to Lindsay Karr https://weedwise.conservationdistrict.org
HOW YOU SEE IT IS HOW YOU SAY IT
Weeds are defined as unwanteds plant. So why are people telling me their lawns are full of weeds; and they love them? What’s not to love about a lawn full of little flowers?
Not only lovely, but good for pollinators, biodiversity, soil, and you: they tell the world that no nasty chemicals have been applied.
Known as Freedom Lawns, Eco Lawns, English Lawns, Flowering Lawns…Whatever…please don't call them weedy lawns.