Ah…ah…AH…CHOO! Feeling a bit sneezy these days? Well, we’re here to clear the air—goldenrod is not to blame for your seasonal allergy woes. This bright, ubiquitous, late-flowering plant has been framed by the real culprit, ragweed, which blooms around the same time and often nearby. Ragweed’s light, dusty pollen is easily carried on the wind to hay-feverish noses but goldenrod’s pollen is much too heavy, making the latter all the more appealing for pollinators!
There are at least 15 species of butterfly and moth caterpillars that feed on the leaves and stems of goldenrods and the many species of insects that can be found on goldenrods, pollinating the flowers or feeding on their leaves and nectar, are far too numerous to count! Research from Cornell University suggests that Monarch butterflies actually face their greatest food shortage in the fall as they are migrating south, usually along the coast; so while milkweed is the primary food source for Monarch caterpillars, the adult butterflies rely on nectar from wildflowers such as goldenrod to fuel them on their long journey.
So before you go pulling goldenrods out of your yard or garden as a nuisance weed, give them a second chance. You might just be reward by a visit from some hungry butterflies. Here are five beautiful photos of goldenrod from our Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest entries. The 2018 contest is now closed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some gorgeous photography year-round!
Read and print out our By the Numbers: Goldenrod and learn how to plant a native pollinator garden in your backyard on our website.
Tri-colored Bumblebee on Goldenrod © Ellen Pierce
Orange Sulphur on Goldenrod © Richard Welch
Monarch Butterfly and Goldenrod © Kim Caruso
Monarch Butterfly on Goldenrod © Karen Lund
Goldenrod © Katharine Randel
As summer draws to a close and the days get shorter, the season’s last generation of Monarch caterpillars are busily munching away at their favorite food: milkweed. This final calorie-binge will sustain them as they “pupate,” ensconcing themselves in a chrysalis to spend 8–14 days metamorphosing into their adult butterfly form. The adult butterflies that hatch this month will fly south to Mexico for the winter where the weather is nice and warm.
Monarch butterflies are a beautiful and easily recognizable member of our ecological community here in Massachusetts, but since the larval caterpillars are working so hard, we thought it would be nice to celebrate them with five photos from our annual Picture This: Your Great Outdoors photo contest.
You can look for chrysalides in various stages of metamorphosis on the undersides of milkweed leaves over the next few weeks, but be careful! It’s best to leave the pupa to its work without disturbing it. Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary in South Dartmouth and Westport leads Monarch Butterfly Tagging programs, so stop by if you’re in the area and want to learn more about these amazing insects.
The 2018 photo contest is closing soon! Submit your nature and wildlife photography by September 30 to be considered for one of several prizes.
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Emily Curewitz
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Ken Conway
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © John Linn
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Keegan Burke
Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar © Sean Horton