Goldenrod welcomes autumn with its usual flair

Jerry Apps
Goldenrod, a native North American wildflower, welcomes autumn with a dash of color in this prairie located in Waushara County.

Many will remember this poem, “September,” written by Helen Hunt Jackson in 1892. It was one of several poems we learned when I was a student in a one-room country school many years ago.

The first lines are:

“The goldenrod is yellow;

The corn is turning brown;

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.”

The goldenrod's great claim to fame—it announces the coming of autumn with the happiness of beautiful yellow flowers.

There are more than a hundred species of goldenrod, which is native to North America. It will grow almost everywhere, but it seems to like infertile, sandy soil the best—the kind of soil we have at Roshara. It also likes lots of sunshine. It can grow up to five feet tall, and this time of year, it has an abundance of beautiful yellow flowers.

We have solid patches of goldenrod in our prairie at Roshara. Its flowers attract an assortment of bees, and butterflies, which help the pollination of the goldenrod.

Historically, goldenrods had many uses beyond reminding us that summer was about to leave. Honeybees make tasty dark-colored honey from its nectar. It has been used to heal wounds and to cure a variety of other health problems such as indigestion and diabetes.

The dried flowers can be used to make tea. A little-known fact, Thomas Edison used the milky juice of goldenrods to make tires for Henry Ford’s Model T Ford car. Native Americans used goldenrod leaves for toothache and other health problems.

A prevalent myth—goldenrod flowers cause “hay fever” type allergies. Not so. Its pollen is a type that doesn’t fly through the air and attack our respiratory systems. Ragweed is usually the culprit in autumn. Ragweed pollen flies on the wind.

Enjoy the beauty of goldenrods, a time to recall the many memories of summer just passing and the beautiful autumn to come.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Goldenrods, nature’s paint brush at work once more.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to or contact him at