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A Comprehensive Guide to Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago delicatula)

Smooth-Elm Leaf Goldenrod (Solidago delicatula) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the mid-western and south-central United States. This species is a host to the northern checkerspot (Chlosyne palla) and several moths. Growing from 1.25 feet to 4 feet tall, this species grows along stream banks and marshes. The yellow flowers bloom from August to October and the plant is hardy in zones 4-10.

Taxonomy and Naming of Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago delicatula)

Herbarium specimen of smooth elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago delicatula).
Herbarium Specimen — Solidago delicatula Small collected in United States of America by Botanical Research Institute of Texas (licensed under CC0 1.0).

Taxonomy

Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago delicatula) was named and described by Asa Gray, an American botanist, in 1882 as Solidago ulmifolia var. microphylla. However, in 1898, it was upgraded to a species as Solidago delicatula, by John Kunkel Small. It has kept this same name since and is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).

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, delicatula, is Latin for luxurious or pretty.

Common Name and Alternative Names

The common name of this species likely comes from the resemblance of the leaves to those of elm. Another common name is the thin-leaf goldenrod (iNaturalist).

Physical Description

Plant of smooth elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago delicatula) with yellow flowers.
Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod — Solidago delicatula Small observed in United States of America by Sam Kieschnick (licensed under CC BY 4.0).
  • Plant Type: This plant is a herbaceous perennial.
  • Height: 1.25 ft (0.4 m) to 4 ft (1.2 m)
  • Stem: The stems are erect and branching and and glabrous (Flora of North America).
  • Leaves: The leaves are alternate, with basal and cauline leaves, linear-elliptic to oblanceolate, and have serrate margins. They are 1.0 in (3.0 cm) to 3.0 in (7.0 cm) long and 0.3 in (0.7 cm) to 0.8 in (2.0 cm) wide (Flora of North America).
  • Flower color: yellow
  • Blooming period: This plant blooms from August to October.
  • Fruiting type and period: This plant has achenes that mature in the late fall and winter.

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

Range map of smooth elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago delicatula) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map of Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago delicatula) — Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2023. (website https://bonap.org/). 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 mid-western and south-central United States and is common throughout its range.

Habitat

Sandy woodland habitat in Delaware.
Open Woods Habitat — Robert Coxe, Image

This species grows in dry open woods and bottomlands.

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). In the eastern part of its range this species may be a host to the Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton).

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, and wasps during the growing season. It is especially important since it provides a nectar source in the late season.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this plant have any ethnobotanical uses?

The Native American Ethobotanical Database does not specifically this species, but Solidago in general has been used for colds, pain, heart medicine, and for stomach ailments.

How is this plant distinguished from other Goldenrods?

As the previous name would suggest, this species is similar to the elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia). However, the elm-leaf goldenrod has hirsute leaves on the underside (Weakley and Southeastern Flora Team 2024).

Is this plant invasive?

This species has not been noted as being weedy.

Gardening with Smooth Elm-leaf Goldenrod

Herbarium specimen of smooth elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago delicatula).
Herbarium specimen — Solidago delicatula Small collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0).

Hardiness

This species is hardy in zones 4-10. 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 requires full sun to part-shade and dry to moist well-drained soils.

References

  • Weakley, A.S. and the Southeastern Flora Team. 2024. Flora of the southeastern United States Web App. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, USA. Flora Link. Accessed May 28, 2024.
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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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