Gray goldenrod - Professor Beaker

Gray goldenrod


Andy's Northern Ontario Wildflowers


(Solidago: pronounced sole-ih-DAY-go)

Note: Identification of Solidago is not simple. The identification on this page are under review.



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Goldenrod is a very common wildflower. It occurs in many habitats, including waste areas, meadows, and on the margins of forests. There are about 125 varieties of Goldenrod native to North America. There are 30 species of goldenrods in Ontario!  Their identification may be difficult!

All these goldenrods are native to North America.

Goldenrod occurs in most areas where there is full to part sun.

Folklore: There is an old legend that relates goldenrods to asters. Two young girls talked about what they would like to do when they grew up. One, who had golden hair, said she wanted to do something that would make people happy. The other, with blue eyes, said that she wanted to be with her golden-haired friend. The two girls met and told a wise old lady of their dreams. The old lady gave the girls some magic corn cake. After eating the cake, the girls disappeared. The next day, two new kinds of flowers appeared where the girls had walked: Asters and Goldenrods.

Language of Flowers: Goldenrod means "encouragement" or "precaution". Source

Click here for more habitat information:

For an excellent resource describing Goldenrods in Ontario, see: John C. Semple, Gordon S. Ringius, and Jie Jay Zhang. 1999. The Goldenrods of Ontario: Solidago L. and Euthamia Nutt., 3rd edition, University of Waterloo Biology Series 39: 1-99.

Another excellent classification summary is provided at Ontario Wildflowers


Goldenrod is a member of the Composite or Daisy family. Goldenrod is most easily classified on the basis of the plant shape.

Note, the following black and white goldenrod profile images are reproduced from page 190 in "A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America by Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny (1968), Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 420p." (see reference book page)

Plume-shaped goldenrod


Elm-shaped goldenrod


Club-shaped goldenrod

Club-like or showy



Flat-topped shape of goldenrod


Example forms of goldenrod shape:

Plume-like shape:

Tall goldenrod - See Canada Goldenrod. The species Tall Goldenrod is now included as Solidago canadensis var. scabra. Tall Goldenrod was formerly considered to be a separate species (Solidago altissima).

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Canada goldenrod; native perennial; Tall Goldenrod is now included as Solidago canadensis var. scabra. Tall Goldenrod was formerly considered to be a separate species (Solidago altissima).

Family: Aster family (Asteraceae).

Flower: Yellow, 9 to 15 flower rays; 3 mm; flowers occur along the upper part of each flowering stem; August-October.

Leaves: Toothed; Lance-shaped; parallel-veined, rough-textured; alternate.

Stem: downy and grayish; several flowering stems exist at the top of the plant and form a panicle-bearing mass of tiny yellow flowers.

Height: May reach 2 m.

Habitat: Waste areas, tall grass prairies, along roadsides and fence lines, dry open fields, and in open woods or damp meadows that dry out every year; not found on waterlogged sites and only rarely on very dry sites; shade intolerant although it occurs in sparsely wooded areas.

Interest: Canada Goldenrod is now included as Tall Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis var. scabra or Canada Goldenrod). Canada Goldenrod and Tall Goldenrod were formerly considered to be separate species (Tall Goldenrod: Solidago altissima); significant variability in the characteristics of local species; flowers are attractive to many species of wasps and flies and it is an important source of nectar for honeybees; several shades of dye can be produced; inhibits the growth of Maple seedlings, and possibly other plants, by exuding chemicals through its roots; name "canadensis" comes from the Latin, "of Canada"; one of the first species to invade following disturbances or fire.

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Canada goldenrod flowerhead, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon

Location: Burwash
Date: August 30, 2002

Canada goldenrod leaves, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Canada goldenrod leaves. Note the leaves are triple-veined and not strongly toothed.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 30, 2002


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Canada goldenrod toothed leaves

Toothed leaves of Canada goldenrod.

Location: Sudbury
Date: August 31, 2002

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Canada goldenrod planr, copyright 2003, Andy Fyon

Canada golden plant

Location: Burwash
Date: August 31, 2002.

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Tall goldenrod field, Kelly Lake Road, Copyright 2006 Andy Fyon.,

Field of Canada goldenrod.

Location: Kelly Lake Road, Fielding Park, Sudbury
Date: November 13, 2006.

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Gray goldenrod., Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Gray goldenrod; also known as Gray-stemmed Goldenrod, Dyer's-weed Goldenrod, Old-field Goldenrod; native perennial.

Family: Aster family (Asteraceae).

Flower: Yellow; slender, one-sided plumes of flowers (secund); 5-11 rays; flower spikes are about 9 - 15 cm long; groups of flower heads form crescent-shaped clusters along the spikes; July-October.

Leaves: Tiny leaflets in the leaf axils where leaves join the stem; basal leaves are long, tapered, and up to 15 cm long; upper leaves become smaller upward and may be only a 1.5 cm long near the flowering spikes.

Stem: Grayish or reddish colour; covered with fine gray hairs; singly or in groups of six or occasionally more.

Height: 12-50 cm.

Habitat: Sunny, dry sandy or gravelly prairie, old pasture, roadsides, and dry open woods.

Interest: The curved form of the Gray Goldenrod is distinctive.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 30, 2002

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Gray goldenrod leaves. Note the tiny leaflets in the leaf axils where the leaves join the stem.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 30, 2002

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Gray goldenrod leaves, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Gray goldenrod flower detail, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Detail of Gray goldenrod flowers.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 30, 2002

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Early goldenrod; native perennial.

Family: Aster (Asteraceae)

Flower: Yellow; plume-like or may assume an elm-like shape; 7 to 12 rays; flowering branches diverge and are curved downward (recurved); flowering top is broad and shaped like an elm-tree; flower heads occur along the top of the branch (second); July-September.

Leaves: Distinctive wing-like leaflets in axils of slim toothless upper leaves; lower stem leaves are large, broad, toothed and tapered into the stalk; alternate; up to 16 cm long and 3 cm across; stem leaves become smaller higher up the stem; lanceolate with margins that are smooth or slightly serrated; stem leaves are attached directly to the stem without leaf stalk.

Stem: Smooth stem; slightly ridged, hairless, and green or reddish in colour; single or several and branching.

Height: 20-100 cm.

Habitat: Open, dry soils, prairies, sunny waste areas, abandoned fields, edges of wooded areas and open woods, and disturbed areas. Will grow in moist soil that is well drained.

Interest: This species is one of the earliest goldenrods to flower - early July in the Sudbury area. Distinctive identification features include the second flower heads, the near or complete absence of hair on the stems and leaves, and the wing-like leaflets that occur in axils of the upper leaves.  The flowers attract many types of insects, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles.

Location: Burwash
Date: July 12, 2001

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Early goldenrod

Leaves of early goldenrod

Distinctive wing-like leaflets in axils of slim toothless upper leaves.

Location: Burwash
Date: July 12, 2001


Elm-branched shape:

Rough-leaved goldenrod

Rough-stemmed goldenrod; native perennial.

Form: The spreading elm-like shape of the flower branches is distinctive.

Flower: Yellow; heads on recurved branches; heads are on one side of branch (secund); 6-11 rays; August - October.

Leaves: Basal leaves are absent; upper stem leaves are 4-9 cm long by 2 cm at widest; wrinkled; hairy; toothed; alternate;  rough on upper surface.

Stem: Rough and hairy; grows from long creeping rhizomes; branches are divergent and arched and plant has an elm-tree-like shape.

Height: Up to 1.5 m tall.

Habitat: Swamps, wet meadows, bogs, roadsides, open meadows, and disturbed areas.

Interest: This species is highly variable in size, shape of flower top, and presence of hairs.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 26, 2001.

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Profile of Rough-stemmed goldenrod.

Location: Paddy Creek beaver meadow
Date: August 17, 2002.

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Rough-stemmed goldenrod, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.



Club-like and showy:

Stout goldenrod, copyright 2007 Andy Fyon,

Stout goldenrod:

Flowers: Yellow; 10-16 flower rays; 15-30 disk florets; flower head is narrow and elongate; not secund; August - October.

Leaves: Basal leaves are strongly toothed; egg-shaped to elliptical; lower and basal leaves are 10-25 cm long and stalked; upper leaves are much smaller and unstalked; are horizontal "wings" where the leaves join the stem.

Stem: Erect, usually solitary; reddish.

Height: up to 1.5 m tall.

Habitat: Dry woods, fields, and rocky areas.

Location: Killarney Highway.
Date: August 26, 2007.

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Stout goldenrod leaf axils, copyright 2007 Andy Fyon,

Stout goldenrod leaves. Note the "wings" in the leaf axils.

Location: Killarney Highway
Date: August 26, 2007

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Stout goldenrod in the winter.


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Bog goldenrod; flowers in terminal cluster that is longer than broad; individual flower clusters are neither curving nor one-sided.

Flowers: Yellow; 1-8 flower rays; up to 4 mm long and 0.5 mm wide; 6-8 disk florets, up to 5 mm long; August - October.

Leaves: Basal leaves are oblanceolate, up to 35 cm long and 6 cm wide; upper stem leaves are similar but much reduced upwards, alternate.

Stem: Erect, usually solitary; up to 1.2 m tall.

Height: up to 1 m tall.

Habitat: Moist woodland openings and  fields.

Location: Bog beside railroad leading to Elbow Lake
Date: August 5, 2002

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Bog goldenrod, Elbow Lake, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Bog goldenrod, copyright 2003 Andy Fyon.

Detail of bog goldenrod flower head.

Location: Secord road, Quarry trail.
Date: August 8, 2003

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Wand-like and slender:

erect goldenrod single flower

Erect goldenrod (also called slender goldenrod):

Profile of a single plant bathed in sunset light.

Flower: Pale yellow, 6-9 rays.

Leaves: usually smooth and devoid of hair.

Stem: usually devoid of hair.

Height: up to 1 m.


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Erect goldenrod plant

Erect goldenrod plant growing in a fallow field.

Location: Burwash
Date: July 28, 2001.

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Erect goldenrod in the winter.  Note seed puffs.

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Erect goldenrod cluster

Erect goldenrod (also called slender goldenrod):

View of several erect goldenrod plants in moist meadow area.

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Downy goldenrod flower

Downy goldenrod



Downy goldenrod plant

Downy goldenrod

Downy goldenrod

Flower: Yellow; 9-16 rays; August - October.

Stem: Minute hairs on stem and leaves. Stem is sometimes purple-coloured.

Leaves: Leafy stem; may be toothed.

Height: up to 1 m.

Habitat: Sandy areas, rocky outcroppings, open woods.

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Ontario Goldenrod (simplex), copyright 2006 Andy Fyon

Ontario Goldenrod; also known as Dune Goldenrod, Gillman's Goldenrod, and Sticky Goldenrod; native perennial.

Flower: Ray florets (7-16) and disk florets (6-31); somewhat resinous or sticky flower heads are distinct.

Stem: Erect; one to several.

Leaves: Basal rosette leaves and lower stem leaves are lanceolate with forward-pointing teeth; up to 5 cm wide; stem leaves become less common upward.

Height: Up to 8 cm tall.

Habitat: Found on rocky shore of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay; also on gravelly open ground.

Interest: This is not a common species in Ontario.

Location: Killarney shoreline.
Date: August 6, 2006

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Blue-stemmed goldenrod

Flower: Yellow; scattered clusters in leaf axils; flower heads ~6 mm long; August-October.

Leaves: 6-12 cm long; stalkless, elliptic, tapering at both ends; toothed; sharply pointed.

Stem: Smooth, purplish; sometimes arch-shape.

Height: 30-90 cm.

Other: Found in woods and clearings.

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Blue-stemmed goldenrod

Blue-stemmed goldenrod stem.

Blue-stemmed goldenrod stems.

It is difficult to capture the bluish-colour of the stem.

Location: Burwash
Date: August 26, 2000.

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Slender fragrant goldenrod, Burwash, Copyright 2002 Andy Fyon.

Grass-leaved goldenrod; also known as Nuttall's Goldenrod, Flat-topped Goldenrod, Flattop Goldentop, Lance-leaved goldenrod, Sweet Goldenrod; native perennial.

Flower: Yellow, 17-22 ray florets; 4-7 disc florets;  individual flowers average 3 to 5 mm across, flower clusters average 2 to 3 cm across.

Leaves: Basal leaves absent at time of flowering, up to 13 cm long by 1 cm wide; stem leaves are very narrow, have 3-5 parallel veins; up to 6 cm long by 0.5 cm wide; alternate.

Stem: Erect; up to 1.5 m tall; branching.

Height: up to 0.5 m.

Habitat: Disturbed ground, road sides, fields, and open ground. Prefers moist, well-drained soils in full sun to shade, but tolerates poor, dry soils and is somewhat drought tolerant.

Interest: A favourite for butterflies and preying mantises. The Latin word "graminifolia" means "grass-leaf" in reference to the leaves on this species, which are thin and long, much like grass blades.

See also: Grass-leaved Goldenrod (John C. Semple)

Location: Burwash
Date: August 4, 2002

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Grass-leaved goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Close up of Grass-leaved goldenrod leaves and part of the inflorescence.

Location: Killarney lighthouse area
Date: July 7, 2010

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Grass-leaved goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Grass-leaved goldenrod growing adjacent to Lake Huron on a shore alvar.

Location: Misery Bay, Manitoulin Island.
Date: August 17, 2010

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Houghton's goldenrod plant, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Location: South Bay area, Manitoulin Island
Date: August 4, 2010

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Houghton's goldenrod; perennial herb.

Family: Aster (Compositae or Asteraceae)

Flower: Yellow; large umbrella-shaped head that is flat topped; 5-30 flower heads; has button-like disk flowers are ringed by prominent ray flowers; flowering stems or pedicles may be finely hairy; August to September.

Leaves: Rosette of narrow leaves at its base; linear lower stem leaves that are slightly clasping, up to 18 cm long and 2 cm wide, sometimes folded along the mid-rib; flat, sickle-shaped, folded, and triple-nerved; upper stem leaves are slightly clasping at stem; longer leaves may be up to 10 cm long and < 1 cm wide.

Stems: Erect, slender 30-60 cm tall; reddish and hairless.

Height: 30 to 60 cm.

Habitat: This species is endemic to the Great Lakes region. It is characteristic of shore alvars in moist calcareous fens. It grows only along the shorelines of the Great Lakes - primarily along the northern shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron. In Ontario, it grows on the Bruce Peninsula and rarely on Manitoulin Island.

Identification: Can be confused with Grass-leaved goldenrod and Ohio goldenrod, which also have a flat-topped flower clusters, and that grow in the same habitat. These are the only goldenrods with flat-topped flower clusters that occur along the shores of the northern Great Lakes. Grass-leaved goldenrod has many more leaves along the stem, but it lacks leaves at the plant base during flowering. Also, its flower-heads are much smaller than those of Houghton's goldenrod. Ohio goldenrod is larger with broader, flat leaves and a dense, many headed flower cluster with smooth, non-hairy stalks of the individual flower-heads. The yellow "petals" in Houghton's goldenrod are larger than those in the other two.

Status: Threatened Provincially, Special Concern Nationally

Distribution: Range Map

Interest: Does not require seeds to reproduce as new plants grow from underground rhizomes. Individual plants do not necessarily flower every year; individual plants may live up to 6 years without flowering and may continue to live after flowering. Houghton's goldenrod was named after Douglass Houghton, who was the first state geologist of Michigan. During the geological survey of Michigan in 1839, Houghton discovered this goldenrod species in Michigan, on the north shore of Lake Michigan.

Ontario's Biodiversity: More information about this Species at Risk (Royal Ontario Museum).

Habitat of calcareous fen, Houghton's goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Houghton's goldenrod, accompanied by Ohio goldenrod, growing in a calcareous fen, South Bay, Manitoulin Island.

Location: South Bay area, Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Date: August 4, 2010

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Houghton's goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Detail of Houghton's goldenrod inflorescence.

Location: South Bay area, Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Date: August 4, 2010.


Houghton's goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Houghton's goldenrod illustrating the subtle hairy stem below the flower head.

Location: South Bay area, Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Date: August 4, 2010

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Ohio goldenrod; perennial herb.

Family: Aster (Compositae or Asteraceae)

Flower: Yellow; large umbrella-shaped head with hundreds of tiny yellow flowers; flat-topped; June to October.

Leaves: Flat, not triple-nerved; long, erect, upward-pointing.

Stems: Erect.

Height: 40 0 90 cm.

Habitat: Characteristic of calcareous fens and common in moist areas, such as Alvars, beaches, ditches, moist meadows.

Interest: Can be confused with Riddell's goldenrod (Solidago Riddellii), which occurs in similar habitats; however, S. Riddellii has leaves that are are sickle-shaped, folded, and triple-nerved, and its inflorescence is hairy.  Solidago comes from the Latin word solido meaning "to strengthen; to make solid". Ohioensis is the Latin word meaning "of Ohio".

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Ohio goldenrod, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon.

Location: Manitoulin Island
Date: August 2, 2004.

Ohio goldenrod, copyright 2006 Andy Fyon.

Ohio goldenrod plant growing in the alvar habitat.

Location: Manitoulin Island
Date: September 11, 2005.

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Uplands White Goldenrod; native perennial herb; also known as Upland White Aster, Prairie Goldenrod, Prairie flat-top-goldenrod, Sneezewort aster, Stiff aster.

Family: Aster (Compositae or Asteraceae)

Flower: White; flat-topped inforesence; individual flower heads are 1 cm across; 10 to 25 white ray flowers per head; yellow disc centres; July to September.

Leaves: Linear-lanceolate; 1 to 3-nerved; smooth edge (entire) or with a few distant teeth on the margins; sessile or very short petioled; lower and basal leaves up to 12 cm long; upper leaves smaller and those on the branches are very small.

Stems: Erect.

Height: Up to 50 cm, but appears to be smaller on shore alvars on Manitoulin Island.

Habitat: Characteristic of shore alvar, open pavement alvar and calcareous fens on Manitoulin Island; prefers full sun; also typical of dry prairies, inland sands, and sandy, gravelly, limy soil (typical of Manitoulin Island alvars).

Interest: Was historically classified as an aster (Aster ptarmicoides) or Oligoneuron album because of the white rays and showy flowers. It is now considered to be a native prairie wildflower and the name "Solidago asteroides" has been proposed. The scientific name "Solidago" comes the Latin word "solido", meaning "to make whole or heal", presumably a reference to inferred medicinal qualities of the goldenrod plants.

Other links to Upland White goldenrod:

a) Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium (University of Wisconsin)
b) Flora of North America
c) Ontario Wildflowers
d) The Asters, Goldenrods, and Fleabanes of Grey and Bruce Counties

Uplands white goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Location: South Bay area
Date: August 4, 2010

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Uplands white goldenrod, copyright 2010 Andy Fyon,

Uplands white goldenrod plant growing on an open shore alvar.

Location: Murphy Point, Manitoulin Island
Date: July 25, 2006

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Page last updated on: August 8, 2010
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