Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Goldenrod or Ragweed Causing Your Allergies


I hear people blaming Goldenrod for their allergies all the time. I used to do the same. In fact I was on a trip to Atlanta, GA in the late summer of 1998 when I had a bad reaction. We were looking for a house when we passed a beautiful field filled with Goldenrod and shortly after I had a horrible headache. When I told my allergist about it later he said it was the ragweed that was the problem not the Goldenrod.


Many people with allergies blame plants for their misery because it is so often the case, and summertime can be tough for hay fever sufferers. Hay fever is an allergic reaction that certain people have when they inhale pollen from specific plants. During late summer and fall one of the most colorful plants we see blooming in roadside ditches is goldenrod (Solidago sp.), and since hay fever symptoms seem to be worse when it is in bloom, it is often blamed for causing hay fever. the true culprit is ragweed. Both plants begin blooming in late summer, and fall and they can both be blooming in the same field but you may only notice the Goldenrod because of the showy flowers.

Goldenrod flowers

Although these plants bloom together they are very different. Goldenrod produces masses of bright golden flowers on single-stemmed plants, and has relatively large, heavy pollen grains that are intended to be carried off by bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. Ragweed bares greenish yellow flowers in small heads which produce copious amounts of pollen that is  carried by the wind rather than insects for pollination. Ragweed flowers are not showy which means these plants are often easier to recognize by their stems and leaves and why Goldenrod is often blamed for seasonal allergies. Look for branching purplish stems that are rough and hairy, and leaves which are smooth,
but deeply divided into lobed portions when identifying Ragweed.

Ragweed stems and flowers

Since about 75% of  Americans who are allergic to other pollen-producing plants are also
allergic to ragweed, it is important for homeowners to control/remove of this pest plant is important. Luckily this shallow-rooted plant  can be controlled  best by hoeing, hand-pulling, or mowing while plants are still young,  before their flowers begin to form. Select herbicides for  use on broadleaf weeds can also provide control. But should be used with caution and should not be used in right-of-ways and ditches where other wildflowers are likely present. Remember that bees and other pollinators for food!

Hopefully this will clarify the differences between Goldenrod and Ragweed and help you to identify ragweed in your yard or property as it did for me, and will allow all of us to breathe a little easier this time of year.

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