If you imagine a stereotypical goldenrod, it is probably a tall plant with several horizontal branches of small yellow flowers near the top. Further, it is probably in a meadow. This is reasonable since some goldenrods – particularly showy ones – do fit that image. However, goldenrods come in a variety of forms. Some are short, some produce vertical spikes, others are flat-topped. Still others grow in different habitats, like in woodlands or on sandy soil and beaches. For this post, I will be looking at one that does not easily fit the goldenrod stereotype, Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens).
As the name suggests, Seaside Goldenrod is most at home on sandy beaches and salt marshes. Sometimes it may be found further inland on the coastal plain or along major waterways such as the St. Lawrence Seaway. On Saturday, Seaside Goldenrod was blooming profusely all over the dunes at Sandy Hook.
Seaside Goldenrod has some features that make it easier to identify than most goldenrods, even aside from where it grows. Its flowers are noticeably larger than most goldenrod flowers, with a wide central disk and short rays around the edges. It has large, fleshy, waxy leaves – a feature that helps it survive the harsh conditions of its maritime habitat, which features salt spray in addition to wind, glaring sun, and occasional flooding.
Like other goldenrods, Seaside Goldenrod is pollinated by insects. (This, by the way, is why goldenrod is not at fault for seasonal respiratory allergies, which are caused by plants that use wind for pollination.) Several insect species were visiting the Seaside Goldenrod at Sandy Hook. It proved particularly attractive to the many Monarchs that were fluttering around the dunes.