There are about 80 different species of genus solidago, more commonly known as Goldenrod, but the one that usually fills the ditches with gold and spills its mustard blooms across meadows of the Peace River country is Soldidago canadensis or Canada Goldenrod.

Many people mistakenly blame Goldenrod for their allergies, the way some women blame the stunning lady in the red dress for their husband?s wandering eye. They think that anything that yellow and splashy is bound to cause a person?s nose to run and eyes to water. It?s a good theory – wait, no it?s not. The amount of colour in the bloom or fluff in the seed head has nothing to do with a plant?s ability to cause hay fever. In fact, the actual source of allergies is usually the more insignificant plants, such as ragweed, that happen to flower about the same time as the gorgeous, but innocent, Goldenrod. In fact, since compounds of this plant are believed to boost the immune system, the plant has actually been recommended at the beginning of hay fever season as a sort of vaccine against seasonal allergies!

Not that no-one is ever allergic to Goldenrod – some people are – but the allergies normally come from ingesting the plant, not from breathing in its pollen. Why would anyone consume Goldenrod you ask? Because it tastes great and it?s good for you. Unless you?re allergic to it, of course. Also, if you have a urinary tract disorder or are retaining fluid because of a heart or kidney disorder, you should avoid using this plant. For the rest of you, prepare to discover Goldenrod?s incredible culinary and medicinal qualities!

CULINARY USES – Goldenrod?s leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups, stews or casseroles. The blossoms can be tossed directly into a salad and are worth picking for a little chew when you come across them in the great, unsprayed, outdoors. The dried leaves and blossoms make a very nice tasting tea – especially when sweetened with a little honey. Speaking of honey, Goldenrod produces a very dark, strong tasting honey when bees combine it with other nectars, but when they have access to nothing but Goldenrod, they will yield a very white coloured, spicy tasting honey that is much sought after by honey connoisseurs.

MEDICAL USES – Over the centuries Goldenrod tea has been used to treat stomach upsets, colic, and weakness of the bowel and bladder, as well as plain exhaustion. It has also been reported to reduce mucous in the bronchi. Usually the tea was served as either a cold or flu remedy or recommended as a kidney tonic. The tea was also applied externally to treat rheumatism and headaches. Flowers were chewed to relieve sore throats. During the Crusades the Goldenrod was affectionately called ?woundwort? because of its ability to stop bleeding. Powdered leaves and blossoms were sprinkled directly on the wound, while liquid from boiling the plant provided antiseptic poultices.

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SURPRISING USES – Thomas Edison used Goldenrod to produce rubber. While this herb produces rubber naturally, Edison perfected a fertilization and cultivation method that maximized its rubber content. The rubber produced by Edison was both resilient and incredibly long lasting. In fact, samples of the rubber are still on exhibit, elastic and rot free after more than 50 years! The tires on Edison?s Model T – a gift from his friend Henry Ford – were made from Goldenrod. Despite the success of his experiment and the fact that he turned all his research over to the U.S. government a year before his death, the production of Goldenrod rubber has never been utilized.

WILDLIFE USES – Goldenrod is a vital source of food for the larvae of Lepidoptera, a group of insects which includes many moths and butterflies. The Goldenrod forms a ball around the larvae in an attempt to confine the invader to a small part of the plant, creating a sort of cocoon for the insect-to-be. Unfortunately for the insect, parasitic wasps have figured out how to penetrate the bulb and lay their eggs in the larvae. Unfortunately for the wasps, woodpeckers have in turn learned to open the ball and eat the Lepidopter larvae, wasp eggs and all.

Goldenrod dries well and makes an excellent addition to flower arrangements. The blossoms also make a vibrant natural dye for wool and such. Many consider the plant a sign of good luck or fortune. Rightly so. This hardy northern perennial is a most fortunate boon to our health, taste buds and landscape. We?re lucky this herb grows so profusely in the Peace. Even the woodpeckers would agree.