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A Comprehensive Guide to Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia)

Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the eastern United States and Canada. This species is a host to the baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) and several moths. Growing from 1 foot to 4 feet tall, this species grows in dry woods. The yellow flowers bloom from July to October and the plant is hardy in zones 3-8.

Taxonomy and Naming of Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia)

Herbarium specimen of elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia).
Elm-leaf Goldenrod — Solidago ulmifolia Muhl. ex Willd. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)


Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) was originally named and described by Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, but the name was invalidly published. Later, Carl Ludwig Willdenow, validly published the name, in 1803. It has kept this same name since and is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).


This species has two varieties:

  • Solidago ulmifolia var. palmeri: stems with hirsute pubescence
  • Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia: stems glabrous

Meaning of the Scientific and Common Names

Scientific Name

The genus name, Solidago, derives from the Latin words, Solidus and ago, which together mean to make (ago) whole (Solidus). This meaning comes from the medicinal uses of the plant. The species name, ulmifolia, is a Latin for elm-leaf, however the leaves do resemble an elm (Meehan and Prang 1878).

Common Name and Alternative Names

The common name comes from the shape of the leaves.

Physical Description

Yellow flowers of elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) in a wooded area.
Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) — Salicyna, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • Plant Type: This plant is a herbaceous perennial.
  • Height: 1 ft (0.3 m) to 4 ft (1.2 m)
  • Stem: The stems are erect, and glabrous (lower) and hairy above (Flora of North America).
  • Leaves: The leaves are alternate, with basal and cauline leaves, ovate-lanceolate, with upper leaves cauline leaves subsessile to sessile and serrate margins. They are 2 in (5.1 cm) to 6 in (15.2 cm) long and 1 in (2.5 cm) to 2.0 in (5 cm) wide.
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Blooming period: This plant blooms from July to October.
  • Fruiting type and period: This plant has achenes that mature in the late fall and winter.

Range of Elm-leaf Goldenrod in the United States and Canada

Range map of elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia var. palmeri) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map of Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia var. palmeri) — Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023. (website Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2023. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]
Range map of elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map of Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia) — Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023. (website Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2023. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)]

This goldenrod species is native to the midwestern and eastern United States and eastern Canada. Solidago ulmifolia var. ulmifolia is considered to be rare in the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Vermont and the province of Ontario.


Wet meadow habitat in NC.
Wet Meadow Habitat — “scene wet meadow Mason Farms ncwetlands KG (27)” by is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

This species grows in dry woods (Flora of North America), lowland woods (Henry and Scott 1985), floodplains (Rogers 1977), moist woods (Freeman 1953), rocky banks (Fernald 1911), shaly cliffs (Smith 1945), thickets (House 1942), and open woods (Palmer 1935) in circumneutral soils (Palmer and Steyermark 1935).

Hosted Insects

Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly on vegetation.
Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) — D. Gordon E. Robertson, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This goldenrod, like a lot of other goldenrods, is a host to the wavy-lined emerald (Synchlora aerata). The genus in general is a host to the Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) and black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). A leaf-roller (Depressaria pulvipenella) lives in the rolled leaves of this species (Coquillett 1883).

Other Supported Wildlife

Blazing star (Liatris spicata) with bumblebee in McMullen House garden.
Bumblebee on Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) — Robert Coxe, Image

This species is a nectar source to other butterflies, skippers, bees, especially Andrena bees, and wasps during the growing season. It is especially important since it provides a nectar source in the late season. Birds eat the seeds in the fall and winter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?

The Native American Ethobotanical Database notes that this species has been used as a stimulant.

How is this plant distinguished from other Goldenrods?

This goldenrod is considered to be similar to the Atlantic Goldenrod (Solidago arguta), but it has a basal rosette, whereas this species does not have a rosette (Taylor and Taylor 1984). Variety ulmifolia is similar to Solidago rugosa as well, but rugosa has a pubescent stem. In addition, Solidago rugosa has a rhizome, which Solidago ulmifolia does not have (Cronquist 1947).

Is this plant invasive?

This species has not been noted as being weedy.

Gardening with Elm-leaf Goldenrod

Plant of elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) in a wooded area.
Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia) — Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


This species is hardy in zones 3-8. If your garden is within these zones and you have the right growing conditions (soil, moisture and exposure), you may well be able to grow this plant. However, if planted outside of its range, the hosted species may not recognize the plant or be harmed by ingesting a different species with an unfamiliar chemical composition.

Optimal Conditions

This species enjoys full sun to part-shade in moist to wet soils.


  • Cronquist, Arthur. 1947. Notes on the Compositae of the northeastern United States. IV. Solidago. Rhodora 49: 69-79.
  • Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1911. Notes from the Phaenogamic Herbarium of the New England Botanical Club, — II. Rhodora 13: 177-183.
  • Freeman, O.M. 1953. Annotated list of the plants growing naturally at the National Arboretum. (Washington, DC: US G.P.O.) National Arboretum Contribution No. 1.
  • Henry, R.D. and A.R. Scott. 1985. Preliminary Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Ferster Woods, West-Central Illinois. Phytologia 57: 65-72.
  • House, Homer. 1942. Clarence J. Elting and his Herbarium. Torreya 42(6): 181-190.
  • Meehan, Thomas and Louis Prang. 1878. The native flowers and ferns of the United States in their botanical, horticultural and popular aspects. (Boston, MA: L. Prang and Company).
  • Palmer, Ernest J. 1935. Supplement to the Spontaneous Flora of the Arnold Arboretum. Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 16(1): 81-97.
  • Palmer, Ernest J. and Julian A. Steyermark. 1935. An Annotated Catalogue of the Flowering Plants of Missouri. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 22: 375-758.
  • Rogers, Ken E. 1977. Vascular Flora of the Ragland Hills Area, Forrest and Perry Counties, Mississippi. Sida 7: 51-79.
  • Smith, Stanley J. 1945. Contributions to the flora of central New York, I. (Albany, NY: University of the State of New York).
  • Taylor, Constance E.S. and Ronald J. Taylor. 1984. Solidago (Asteraceae) in Oklahoma and Texas. Sida 10: 223-251.
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Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe

Robert Coxe is a professional ecologist and botanist who has worked as the State Ecologist of Delaware and as an ecologist for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. He is also a former Past-President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science. He currently is an innkeeper at McMullen House Bed & Breakfast LLC and a web designer and owner for Silphium Design LLC.

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