Nebraska State Flower - Goldenrod

Goldenrod's sunny yellow flowers attract birds and butterflies.

Goldenrod's sunny yellow flowers attract birds and butterflies.

If flowers could win a popularity contest, goldenrod (Solidago spp.) would be a top contender. The residents of three states have chosen the fluffy yellow beauty as their state flower: Nebraska, Kentucky and South Carolina. Goldenrod is a member of the Solidago genus, which tells a bit about its background. Solidago, according to the experts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, means “to make whole.” For centuries, various parts of the plant have been use for medicinal purposes. It’s the plant’s striking floral panicles, however, that endeared it to the folks of Nebraska.

Facts

Goldenod is a perennial herb that grows with an upright habit to 3 feet in height. The yellow flowers bloom in panicles from mid-summer through October. Crush a handful of goldenrod’s foliage to release its anise-like scent. Goldenrod is a bit of a floozy, freely crossbreeding with other plants. Because of this, there are over 1,000 species in the U.S., two native to Nebraska. S. speciosa blooms in August and September with upright, triangular panicles of small yellow flowers. S. ulmifolia bears a looser flower cluster on hairy stems.

History

While the people of the state of Nebraska considered which flower they wanted as their state flower, the goldenrod was performing an effective public relations campaign. It is difficult to ignore the elephant in the room, which is exactly what goldenrod was back in the late 1890s. The bill’s wording alluded to as much by claiming that the plant was crammed into every “nook or corner of the state.” The fact that several of the species were native to the state also played well with the selection committee. Finally, residents felt that because goldenrod blooms for so long and is so hardy, it exemplified the endurance and the spirit of Nebraska’s pioneers.

Cultivation Notes

If you like butterflies, plant goldenrod, and you’ll have an end-of-summer butterfly parade every year. Goldenrod is a snap to grow in the home garden. Keep in mind that one of its requirements, for maximum bloom, is moist soil. Unfortunately, it thrives so well in moist soil that it may become aggressive. Keep it trimmed to fit its space in the garden, and you can enjoy the bright yellow flowers all summer.

Uses

Goldenrod has long been one of the key herbs used in folk medicine. It is used to treat wounds and toothaches and as a diuretic. More serious diseases, such as tuberculosis, asthma and hypertension, have also been treated with goldenrod. Scientists at the University of Maryland Medical Center suggest that, although there are no studies of note about goldenrod’s effects on humans, animal studies present the possibility that the herb may help lower blood pressure and fight infection.

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