Nancy Wiersma: Don’t blame goldenrod for sniffles

Published 10:51 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Now is the time of our suffering from hay fever. Many feel the pain allergies cause. We who live here in Michigan know it well. Maybe this is why most settlers passed this region by and went to drier, less floriferous locations further west.

But another plant suffers the blame for our pain. It’s reputation has been torted, the poor goldenrod (Solidago) of the aster family. When most see the goldenrod, immediately they get a tickle lodged deep in the sinuses, somewhere, then their noses start to run. Next begins the swelling of the sinus tissues, then the sneezing begins. Goldenrod’s pollen should not be held to blame.

With similar growing habits, it is the licentious common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), which is causing a great deal of the allergy problems, from which we are suffering.

One is a perennial, and the other is an annual. Both thrive on neglect, in waste places, meadows and prairies, along roadsides and even in woodlands. But not in deep shade. Both hold up well under drought conditions. With both blooming in yellow flowers from July through September, maybe this is why the goldenrod gets the blame?

Hoeing and hand-pulling is very effective for getting rid of ragweed. I would use an organic mulch, shredded leaves or grass clippings to smother their dreaded seedlings. Ragweed is the source of an irritating pollen (I bet if we could look at a single grain of pollen under a
microscope, it would be round in shape with all sorts of barbs jutting from them) and is the most common cause of hay fever in fall.

In some states, ragweed is considered a noxious weed and falls under weed-control ordinances.

They grow in poor, dry soils, are very adaptable and wily and quite happy in a wide range of conditions.

So blame not the poor goldenrod of its pollen, for it is the scoundrel ragweed which should be held to blame.