Plant of the Week: Early goldenrod

When a snow-laden goldenrod leans into your path along the Western Rail Yards, seize the opportunity to take a closer look at its gritty structure. Dense panicles of ripe seed are held on stiff stems that bear high winds and sleet for the coming months. It takes a weed like Solidago juncea, the early goldenrod, to grow in a bed of coarse railroad gravel in this section of the High Line between 30th and 34th Streets. It is native to the eastern and central United States and Canada, from Quebec to Florida, from Manitoba to Minnesota, south to Louisiana.

Unlike other members of its genus that flower in the fall, the golden-yellow blossoms of this species have long past since early summer, when they became an attraction for the first butterflies and bees of the season. This characteristic makes Solidago juncea a recommendable garden plant for dry soils with ample sunlight. Its weedy nature has been confirmed by High Line gardeners to be manageable in comparison to other golden rods such as Solidago sempervirens.The Latin roots of the genus "solida" (whole) and "ago" (make) can be attributed to the plant's historic use as a cure-all, or make-whole, in tonics, tinctures, and teas. Modern medicine approves of Solidago species in the treatment of urinary and kidney ailments.

Short of first-hand experience in the curative powers of the early goldenrod, it can be said that the proper and repeated shouting of the name s Ohhh'-lee-d'Ago into the face of a Nor'easter scouring the High Line at the Hudson Yards will keep a body warm until it reaches the next coffeehouse.

PLANTING TIP

Early goldenrod does best in full sun locations with moisture-retentive soil, though plants will tolerate drier, sandier, or rockier soils. It is relatively pest free, and self-seeds vigorously under the right conditions. Use Solidago juncea as a naturalizing meadow plant with early autumn interest.

WHERE TO FIND THIS PLANT

Solidago juncea can be found growing in the Western Rail Yards/Interim Walkway between the 34th Street Entry Gate and the 11th Avenue entrance.

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