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GOLDEN-ROD is a distinctively American flower, not only indigenous to our country, but broadly distributed from one end of it to the other. There are in all no less than seventy-five members of the tribe Solidago (Composite family), forty-two of which are described in Gray’s Manual of Botany. But there are only a dozen or so species which are common on the borders of the highway.

A, Feather-veined Leaf;
B, Three-ribbed Leaf.

The golden-rods have two distinct kinds of leaves. I have drawn these, and they tell their own story at a glance. We will call one a feather-veined leaf and the other a three-ribbed leaf. All the golden-rods, therefore, can be divided into two groups distinguished apart by the kind of leaf. Beyond this leaf difference there are other distinguishing characteristics of the plants which are to be referred to the flowers and the plant stems; these are not difficult to discover.1 The questions which naturally arise as we pursue our investigations are these:

1. Is the leaf smooth or rough-hairy?

2. Is it plain-edged, or toothed, or both — i. e., “half and half”?

3. Is the stem of the plant straight or angled?

4. Is it woolly or smooth, or covered with a plumlike bloom?

5. Is it cylindrical or angular if cut in a cross section?

6. How many little petals (rays) are there on one floret?

7. Do the flowers grow in feathery plumes, or in flat-topped clusters, or in little bunches along the stem?

Each golden-rod common on the roadside I will describe after the order suggested by these questions.

1. Solidago arguta. Blooms about the middle of July. Leaves feather-veined, but not very distinctly so, large, broad, smooth, the lower ones sharply toothed, the upper ones without teeth; in shape, oval, sharp-pointed at both ends. Stem angled, smooth, angular in section, and sometimes ruddy brown. Flower, light golden yellow, fully a quarter of an inch long, with six or seven large rays. Flower plume long and gracefully curved. If the plant is one-stemmed and small the flowers will spring from the junction of each leaf with the stem. This species is common in copses and the borders of woods; it grows from two to four feet high.

S. arguta.

2. Solidago juncea. Blooms about the latter end of July; often in company with the foregoing species. Leaves slightly three-ribbed, smooth; lower ones large, somewhat elliptical, sharply toothed, the teeth spread  ing; a tiny leaf wing grows out on either side of the leaf stem where it joins the stem of the plant; upper leaves generally without teeth, shaped like willow leaves. Stem straight and smooth, not perfectly cylindrical in section. Flower small, golden yellow, one sixth of an inch long, with eight to twelve small rays. Flower clusters spread symmetrically like the figure of an elm. The smaller plants have one-sided clusters. This species is common on roadside banks and copses; it grows about thirty inches high.

S. juncea.                      S. serotina

3. Solidago serotina. Blooms about the first of August. An upright, dignified species often found in company with S. juncea. Leaves plainly three-ribbed, smooth, and toothed only along the upper half of the edge; they are narrow and sharp-pointed. Stem stout, smooth, perfectly straight, cylindrical, and very often covered with a plumlike bloom, but sometimes light green. The stems of the little flower clusters are covered with the tiniest of white hairs. Flower small, light golden yellow, with seven to fourteen long rays. Flower clusters spread cylindrically at the top of an unbranched stem. A taller species than the preceding, rarely reaching a height of six feet, common beside fences and in copses. Not found at the seaside.

4. Solidago nemoralis. Gray golden-rod; the Latin name means belonging to the woods. Blooms about the tenth of August. Leaves three-ribbed, covered with minute grayish hairs, broad lance-shaped, dull-toothed, somewhat wider at one end than the other; the lower ones taper very narrowly toward the stem. The stem is gray, covered with tiny grayish hairs, and is always simple, never branched. Flower deep golden yellow, with five to nine rays. Flower clusters crowded together forming a one-sided plume gracefully curved. This species possesses the most brilliant color of all the golden-rods; it rarely reaches a height of over two feet, and is common beside the road and in the pastures. Its thinly leaved, single stem is, on the average, eighteen inches high. Not found at the seaside.

5. Solidago bicolor. White golden-rod. Blooms about the tenth of August. Leaves feather-veined, rough-hairy, especially the veins on the under surface, only sparingly toothed, and dark olive-green above; the lower ones quite large, elliptical, and pointed at both ends; the upper ones small and lance-shaped. Stem straight, generally simple, and covered with soft grayish hairs. Flower yellow-cream color, with from five to fourteen white rays; in effect remotely resembling the color tone of mignonette. Flower clusters growing from the junction of the leaves with the plantstem short, and crowding into a cylindrical spike at the top of the plant. This species is not showy; it is common on dry ground.

S. bicolor.

6. Solidago lanceolata. Lance-leaved golden-rod. Blooms on or before the tenth of August. Leaves light green, three-ribbed, sometimes five-ribbed, without teeth, and extremely narrow willow-shaped; the edges scratchy-rough. Stem straight, angular in section (the ridges which run lengthwise with the stem are minutely rough), and terminating in a radiating, much-branched flower cluster. Flower tiny, in little crowded clusters, with fifteen to twenty short rays, light golden yellow. Flower clusters flat-topped and not showy in color, supported by small-leaved, wiry stems. This species is common on river banks, in wet shaded places, and on the borders of woods; it grows from two to three feet high.

S. lanceolata.

7. Solidago Canadensis. Canada golden-rod. Blooms about the middle of August. Leaves three-ribbed, rough-hairy, sharply toothed, and deep green; sometimes they are almost without teeth. Beneath, they are always covered with soft, downy hairs. Stem rough-hairy, stout, and hardly cylindrical. Flower small, greenish golden yellow, with from five to seven short rays. Flower clusters spread with graceful curves in an ample plume sometimes one-sided. A very common species on the borders of roads, thickets, and fields, varying greatly in the roughness and hairiness of stem and leaf, and growing from three to six feet high. Not found at the seaside.

8. Solidago rugosa. Rough-stemmed goldenrod. Blooms about the middle of August. Leaves feather veined, deeply toothed, very veiny, exceedingly rough and hairy, and dark green; in form variable, from broad lance-shaped to elliptical or oblong. Stem straight, cylindrical, thickly beset with leaves, and much branched at the top. Flower light golden yellow, with from six to nine rays. Flower clusters not remarkable in color, much beset on the branchlets with little leaves, spreading, and formed of minor clusters about three inches in length. A very common species found on shady borders of the road, presenting a great variety of forms, chief among which is the cluster of leafy branchlets terminating a leafy, stocky stem; it grows from one to six feet high.

S. rugosa.

9. Solidago ulmifolia. Elm-leaved golden-rod. Blooms about the middle of August. Gray says of this species, “Too near S. rugosa; distinguished only by its smooth stem and thin, larger leaves.” The upper branchlets are hairy, and the flower has about four rays. This species is common in low copses near streams which pass beneath the road; it grows about three feet high.

10. Solidago odora. Sweet golden-rod. Blooms about the middle of August. Leaves bright green, indistinctly three-ribbed, smooth, or very nearly so, without teeth, shining, and somewhat dotted. Stem slender and usually smooth, often reclining, and nearly cylindrical. Flower small, with three or four large, golden-yellow rays. Flower clusters spreading in one-sided, rather small plumes. The crushed leaves of this species yield a pleasant aniselike odor. S. odora is common in dry and sandy soil, particularly near the coast; it frequently occurs in the pine barrens of New Jersey. It grows from two to three feet high.

11. Solidago cæsia. Blue-stemmed golden-rod. Blooms about the first of September. Leaves dark-green, feather-veined, smooth, distinctly toothed, lance-shaped, and pointed. Stem slender, slightly angular, covered with a plumlike purple bloom, reclining, and often much-branched. Flower very large, bright golden yellow, with from three to five large rays a full sixteenth of an inch broad. Flower clusters small and hemispherical or oblong, like those of the lilac; they are arranged along the curved stem at the points from which the leaves grow. This species, although not particularly effective, is one of the handsomest of all; it loves the shady, wooded roadside, and grows about three feet high. We should know it at once by its bluish stem and exceptionally large, light-yellow florets.

12. Solidago latifolia. Broad-leaved golden-rod. A species similar to the preceding, and blooming at the same time. Leaves deep green, feather-veined, broadly oval, sharply toothed, and conspicuously pointed at both ends. Stem smooth, without the blue bloom, angled, zigzag, and generally simple, but sometimes branching at the tip. Flowers light golden yellow with but three or four rays. Flower clusters small and arranged along the stem like S. cæsia. This species is also common on woodland borders.

Blooming at the same time with several of the golden-rods, we will see a dozen kinds of asters purpling the roadside with a handsome array of starry blossoms. Of the forty more or less common species which we meet with East and West, there are a few which we will find both attractive and interesting. These I. will describe in the same systematic manner as I have the golden-rods.

1. Aster Noviæ-Angliæ. New England aster. Blooms in late August. Leaves very numerous, lance-shaped, sharp-pointed, without teeth, minutely hairy, and slightly clasping the stem. Stein stout and hairy. Flower pale violet (rarely inagenta-purple), as large as a silver quarter, or larger; numerous, and widely distributed over the stems. Common on moist ground. The most familiar wild aster, now extensively cultivated.

2. Aster Novi-Belgii. Willow-leaved blue aster. Blooms in September. Leaves narrow, lance-shaped, without teeth or with a very few, usually a trifle hairy; sometimes quite rough above, and in a few forms wholly smooth, the upper ones somewhat clasping the stems. Stem smooth or slightly hairy. Flower bluish violet, showy, as large as a silver half dollar; the little green scales underneath loose. This species is common along the Atlantic border; it blooms late, and is rarely over two feet high.

Aster Novi-Belgii.

3. Aster puniceus. Purple-stemmed aster. Blooms about the Aster Novi-Belgii. first of September. Leaves very rough-hairy, oblong lance-shaped, very slightly narrowed at the stem-clasping base, pointed, without teeth, nearly smooth beneath, and dull green. Stem stout, rough-hairy, and madder purple, particularly below. Flower lilac-purple or paler, as large as a silver quarter or larger, the little narrow green scales beneath sharp-pointed and loose. An extremely common but variable species found in low thickets and swamps, from three to seven feet high.

4. Aster radula. Rough-leaved aster. Blooms in late August. Leaves oblong lance-shaped, pointed, sharply toothed in the middle, very finely rough on both sides, and absolutely stemless. Stem smooth or slightly hairy, many-leaved. Flower pale violet, about an inch and a quarter in diameter, with short spreading green tips beneath. A common species on low grounds, usually about twenty inches high; frequently lower.

5. Aster patens. Spreading aster. Blooms about the middle of August. Leaves ovate oblong, or sometimes longer, rough above and on the margins, without teeth (or very rarely with small ones), and stemless. Stem rough-hairy, terminating in slender branchlets which bear the flowers. Flower purple, with spreading, pointed green tips beneath; it measures an inch and a -half across. This species is common on the shaded borders of the highway, usually on dry ground; it grows from one to three feet high.

6. Aster undulatus. Wavy-leaved aster. Blooms about the middle of August. Upper leaves ovate lance-shaped, with wavy or slightly toothed margins, roughish above, downy beneath, the topmost ones stem-clasping. Lower leaves without teeth, pointed, heart-shaped, with long stems which flare out widely at the base and clasp the stem of the plant. Stem grayish, covered with finest hairs. Flower lavender-purple, about an inch and an eighth in diameter. A species also common in dry shady places by the road, growing usually twenty inches high.

7. Aster cordifolius. Heart-leaved aster. Blooms early in September. Leaves on the lower part of the stem heart-shaped and toothed; those above narrower and much less toothed. Both leaf and stem of plant variable as to smoothness or rough-hairiness. Flower extremely small, about three quarters of an inch in diameter, lilac, and blue-lavender, crowded in dense clusters like lilacs. A common species on wooded banks, growing not over two feet high. A variety frequently found on the roadsides of the White Mountain region, bears nearly white flowers about five eighths of an inch in diameter, narrow leaves, and grows about eight inches high.

8. Aster spectabilis. Showy aster. Blooms from early September to November. Leaves oblong lance-shaped, rough, mostly without teeth, only the lower ones obscurely toothed. Stem roughish. Flower showy, bright light violet, with about twenty rays nearly an inch long. Very few flowers on the stems.

This species, one of the most beautiful of all, is confined to the seacoast; its range is from Massachusetts to Delaware. It grows from one to two feet high.

The most familiar species of white asters are the following:

9. Aster paniculatus. White, panicled aster. Blooms about the middle of August. Leaves dark green, smooth or nearly so, broad lance-shaped, sharply toothed, the upper ones less conspicuously toothed. Stem stout and much-branched. Flower white or very nearly so, about an inch in diameter, crowded in flat clusters. A very tall species, from three to eight feet high, common on moist, shaded banks.

Aster paniculatus.

10. Aster umbellatus. Tall, white aster. Blooms about the middle of August, and Southward earlier. Leaves long, lance-shaped, smooth, taper-pointed and tapering at the base, generally without teeth. Stem smooth, stout, leafy to the top. Flowers numerous, white, with but few rays, the short green scales beneath rather close and obtuse; the clusters are flat-topped. This species is common beside moist thickets; it grows from two to seven feet high.

11. Aster corymbosus. Slender, white aster. Blooms very early, from July to the first of September. Leaves ovate, lower ones heart-shape based, thin, smoothish, coarsely and unevenly sharp-toothed, taper-pointed, and olive-green. Stem slender and somewhat zigzag. Flowers with from six to nine white rays borne in small loose clusters. This species is common in woods and beside the woodland road; it grows from one to two feet high, and is not showy.

12. Aster ericoides. White, heathlike aster. Blooms from the middle of August, or earlier, to late September. Leaves tiny and slightly hairy, narrowly lance-shaped and light green. The lower ones are broader at the upper end; rarely they are toothed. The stem is nearly smooth and set with spreading branches. The tiny white flowers resemble miniature daisies; the clusters terminate the erect branchlets. This beautiful little aster is common in dry open places of certain localities in New England. It is familiar on the roadsides of the South and West, and in many a stony field its white, starry clusters mingle with the yellow plumes of the gray golden-rod.

Aster ericoides.

The colors of the roadside in September are exactly the reverse of what they were in early June.2 The asters and golden-rods are now tinting it with purple and yellow, two colors which are strikingly beautiful in combination with the greenish gray of stone walls and rocky ledges, which are rapidly coming into plainer view with the thinning of the foliage. The swampy hollow, which some time ago was lined with the white of daisies and the gold of buttercups, is now swept broadly by the sober, grayish lilac of the purple-stemmed aster; the meadow has exchanged its emerald hue for a less vivid, warm rusty-green; the white-blossomed hedge is no longer white, but yellow with the plumes of the Canada golden-rod; and the borders of the highway, once monotonously green, are now decked in a thousand tints of golden yellow, lilac, purple, lavender, pale scarlet-orange, pink, and rusty-red — a mosaic of infinite beauty on a sunny day.


1 A magnifying glass is an almost indispensable aid in the solution of these little botanical problems.

2 The prevailing colors of June are, of course, the bright green of foliage and the pink of roses.

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