Thursday, October 27, 2011

Downy Ragged Goldenrod - Solidago petiolaris

Downy ragged goldenrod (Solidago petiolaris) is one of our most attractive native goldenrods, though you would never guess that from its common name.  This deciduous perennial goldenrod is native to open upland sites across much of the Florida panhandle and in a few interior counties as far south as Alachua.  Though not widely distributed in Florida, it occurs throughout much of the south and middle portions of the country, from New Mexico, Colorado and Nebraska, north to southern Illinois and east to North Carolina.
Downy ragged goldenrod gets its common name from the rough hairs (trichomes) on both the stems and the leaves.  These are evident in the photo above.  It gets its Latin name from the obvious petioles (the stalk that connects the leaf to the main stem) that also keep the leaves away from it - not appressed to the stem.
Downy ragged goldenrod is one of the better behaved species in this genus and works well in a mixed wildflower garden. At maturity, in early fall, it normally stands no taller than 3 feet.  Each plant is normally composed of multiple stems, but it doesn't sucker extensively like many do.  Over time, downy ragged goldenrod tends to form dense patches in the landscape, not widely scattered stands.
Both the foliage and the flowers are distinctive.  The leaves are more broad than most members of this genus, oval in shape, and with a noticeable midrib.  The flowers are arranged in a willowy panicle.  Each head is a bit broader across than most and bright canary yellow in color. Like all members of this genus, the blooms are excellent nectar sources for bees and butterflies.
Though downy ragged goldenrod has a great many attributes to recommend it for the home landscape, it is only available sporadically.  Currently, it is being propagated by Claudia Larsen at Micanopy Wildflowers and I can only hope that her sales of this plant justify her growing it for many years to come. We have purchased plants from her for our landscape in Pinellas, but it is far too early for us to evaluate its ability to be grown this far south of its normal range.
Use this species in a mixed wildflower garden in the middle portion and mix it with other medium-sized wildflowers such as Florida paintbrush (Carphephorous corymbosus), butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), red salvia (Salvia coccinea), and the like.  It blooms in October into early November in Florida and mixes well with any wildflower with a fall blooming season.  It is drought tolerant and adaptable to most upland landscape settings. If you can find some plants for purchase, this is a wonderful goldenrod to add - and, every garden should have at least a few goldenrods.


  1. Thank you so much for profiling this! This may be what I found up here in Georgia, but I was trying to decide if it was S. squarrosa.

  2. That would be very cool. Open habitats - such as open dry woodlands and savannas. Not well known here in FL and doesn't seem to have attracted much attention from native plant nursery folks anywhere - at least not as much as it should.


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