Goldenrod vs. Ragweed: Don’t Blame an Innocent Bystander for Your Seasonal Allergies!

Late summer – with its sunshine, abundance of harvest-ready produce, flowers, and extra fun squeezed into evenings, weekends & precious days off – is marred for many by the return of hayfever. Allergy symptoms are seriously blech, to use a technical term. If you are still suffering, ask me about natural solutions for your allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies, or read more here.


And in the meantime, enjoy the beauty of late summer flowers without fear of sneezing by learning which plant is really to blame.


This is goldenrod (Solidago canadensis and other Solidago spp), a beautiful yellow flower offering great herbal medicine.

Goldenrod in Bloom

Goldenrod in Bloom

Goldenrod’s aerial parts are used as a tonic for mucus membranes, meaning it is often found in herbal formulas for such things as sinus infections, bladder infections, and even to treat seasonal allergies! It has been used historically as a kidney tonic, and also for the skin. Note the leaf shape to help identify the plant before it flowers. Note, also, that it grows fairly tall on a single stalk. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be airborne – rather, it is pollinated by insects. Thus it is an innocent bystander, falsely accused as far as seasonal allergies are concerned.



This is ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya).

Ragweed in bloom

Ragweed in bloom

It has less showy green flowers, and a very different leaf shape. Ragweed pollen is lighter and IS airborne. If you suffer from hayfever, ragweed is not your friend! While ragweed and goldenrod do grow in similar environments, ragweed is usually shorter than its pretty medicinal companion, and can be differentiated long before flowers and pollen based on the leaves. With this information, you can weed it out of your yard to decrease your local pollen exposure.




Here is another picture of ragweed that I took, this time with goldenrod in the background to drive home the innocent bystander point:

Ragweed (foreground) vs Goldenrod

Ragweed in the foreground, getting goldenrod into trouble




And here is a side-by-side from the folks at The New England Academy of Herbal Medicine:

Ragweed vs Goldenrod

Ragweed vs Goldenrod




So, now you know, right? Ragweed has pretty leaves and small flowers with light pollen that causes “blech” symptoms. Goldenrod has pretty flowers with heavy, innocent pollen, and long skinny leaves off a tall main stalk. Spread the word: Enjoy goldenrod’s lovely late summer blooms, and help stop the false accusations!

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