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A Comprehensive Guide to Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) is a herbaceous perennial that is found in the midwest and eastern United States and eastern Canada. This plant, along with other goldenrods, is an important nectar source for many insects in the fall including the Monarch butterfly. It can grow up to 7 feet tall and has lanceolate to ovate leaves with crenate to serrate margins. The golden yellow flowers bloom from August to October and it is hardy in zones 4-8. Along with the Canada goldenrod, this plant is very common on roadsides and fields. The seeds for this plant can be purchased in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast Garden Shop.

Taxonomy and Naming of Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

Herbarium specimen of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa).
Herbarium Specimen — Solidago rugosa Mill. collected in United States of America by The New York Botanical Garden (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Holotype specimen of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa).
Holotype Specimen — “BM001050795” – Solidago rugosa Mill. collected in United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London (licensed under CC BY 4.0)
Plant of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa var. aspera) in a field.
Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod in a field — Mason Brock (Masebrock), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Taxonomy

Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) was named and described by Philip Miller, a Scottish botanist in 1768 in The Gardeners Dictionary. This species has kept the same name since. This plant is a member of the Aster Family (Asteraceae).

Subspecies and Varieties

This goldenrod has two subspecies, each with its own varieties. However, some treatments separate the subspecies and varieties into different species. Needless to say this species can be quite variable. The subspecies are ssp. aspera and ssp. rugosa. Subspecies aspera has thick leaves that are crenate to entire and ssp. rugosa has thin leaves that are sharply serrate.

Subspecies aspera

Subspecies aspera has three recognized varieties. They are var. aspera, celtidifolia, and cronquistiana. Both var. aspera and var. celtidifolia have pubescent leaves, and var. cronquistiana is slightly pubescent (Weakley 2022).

Subspecies rugosa

Subspecies rugosa has two recognized varieties. They are the typic, var. rugosa and var. sphagnophila, which is rare in a lot of places where it occurs due to being restricted primarily to sphagnum wetlands. S. rugosa var. sphagnophila was first found in a sphagnum swamp in Connecticut and other than the habitat, it was different from rugosa in that it has smooth stems (Graves 1904). This variety is now shown to be extirpated from Connecticut (BONAP – Go to webpage) where it was first found, but it is in other states.

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). The name comes from the medicinal uses of the plant. The species name, rugosa, derives from the Latin for wrinkled leaves (Missouri Botanical Garden – Go to webpage).

Common Names and Alternative Names

The common name refers to the “wavy” margins of the leaves. Other common names refer to the rough feel of the plant and include rough-stemmed goldenrod, rough-leaf goldenrod, and rough goldenrod.

Physical Description of Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

Plant of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) with yellow flowers.
Plant of Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod — Solidago rugosa Mill. observed in United States of America by Steve Plumb (licensed under CC0 1.0)

Description

  • Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Height: about 3 to 7 feet tall
  • Leaves: alternate, simple, crenate to serrate, lanceolate to ovate leaves that grow up to 4 inches in length and 1-2 inches in width. The tops of the leaves have a wrinkled appearance.
  • Stem: roughly pubescent
  • Flower color: golden/yellow
  • Blooming period: August to October
  • Fruiting type and period: achene — October to November

Range Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod in the United States and Canada

Range of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) in the United States and Canada.
Range Map Credit: Kartesz, J.T., The Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2015. North American Plant Atlas. (https://bonap.net/napa). Chapel Hill, N.C. [maps generated from Kartesz, J.T. 2015. Floristic Synthesis of North America, Version 1.0. Biota of North America Program (BONAP). (in press)].

This species is native to mid-western and the eastern United States and eastern parts of Canada. It is commonly found throughout its distribution. This species has been introduced in Europe and Asia.

Habitat of Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod

Roadside in Europe with wildflowers.
Roadside verge full of wildflowers by Christine Johnstone, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the varieties of Solidago rugosa can grow on mesic to moist well-drained soil in open areas. It has a preference for disturbed areas and is one of the first plants to populate them. These areas include roadsides, railroads, fields, and meadows. The only exception is Solidago rugosa var. sphagnifolia is found in sphagnum and peat swamps and would be difficult to grow in a garden.

Hosted Insects

Wavy-lined emerald (Synchlora aerata) on beige background.
Wavy-lined Emerald — CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, CC0 1.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This goldenrod supports the Wavy-lined Emerald (Synchlora aerata).

Other Supported Wildlife

Monarch butterfly on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Butterfly weed with Monarch Butterfly — Laura Perlick, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Most goldenrods are major sources of nectar for a lot of insects in the fall. This goldenrod is no different. Insects that are helped the most include Andrena bees and bumblebees, but butterflies are also frequent visitors including Monarch butterflies. Birds are fond of the fruits and it is deer resistant, most likely because of the rough stems.

Frequently Asked Questions about Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

Is this plant poisonous?

This goldenrod is not listed as being poisonous on the NC Extension Gardener website (NC Extension Gardener). The ASPCA does not list this plant as poisonous.

How has this goldenrod been used?

This goldenrod is used in gardens as an ornamental plant and has a famous cultivar called ‘fireworks.’ Native Americans used the plant for liver problems and for dizziness (Native American Ethnobotany Database).

What other goldenrods are similar?

Solidago rugosa is similar to the elm-leaf goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia). They are different in that S. rugosa has a pubescent stem and S. ulmifolia is not pubescent (Taylor 1984). In addition, S. ulimifolia occurs on drier sites and generally blooms before S. rugosa.

Is it invasive?

This goldenrod, though a native species, spreads easily via rhizomes and can display some invasive characteristics rapidly occupying nearby spaces. This has been noticed in the McMullen House Bed & Breakfast gardens but it is easily controlled and the blaze of yellow in the fall is worth it.

Is it deer resistant?

Some websites show this plant as being deer resistant and this has been the experience at McMullen House. There are plenty of deer here, but they do not seem to bother this species of goldenrod.

Does goldenrod cause allergies or hay fever?

Goldenrods in general, which do not cause hayfever, are often confused for ragweed (Ambrosia sp.), which cause the common hayfever. These plants bloom at the same time, which may lead to the confusion.

Gardening with Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)

Add Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod to your Garden

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'Firewroks' cultivar of wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa) in a garden.
‘Fireworks’ cultivar of Wrinkle-leaf Goldenrod — Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hardiness

This goldenrod is hardy in zones 4-8 and prefers open areas with full sun (can tolerate part shade) that have mesic to moist well-drained soil.

Cultivars

  • ‘Fireworks’ : A cultivar known for not spreading out as much as the regular species. Flowers spread in a “fireworks-like” pattern. The cultivar was first introduced from the North Carolina Botanical Garden (University of Wisconsin). This cultivar was awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (Wikipedia).
  • ‘Sparkler’ : This cultivar likely the European name for the ‘Fireworks’ cultivar (Galabau). They look a lot alike.

Optimal Conditions

Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod prefers places that have full sun, but can handle some shade. Soils should be mesic to moist, but well-drained. This plant is known to transplant well and is easy to grow by seed (Eaton 1920). It blooms about the same time as New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) in September to October and forms a mosaic of blue and yellow in fields and roadsides.

References

  • Eaton, Mary E. 1920. Colored Illustrations and Popular Descriptions of Plants. Addisonia 5:1-74.
  • Graves, C.B. 1904. An Undescribed Variety of Goldenrod. Rhodora 6: 182-184.
  • Taylor, Constance E.S. 1984. Solidago (Asteraceae) in Oklahoma and Texas. Sida 10: 223-251.
  • Weakley, A.S. and the Southeastern Flora Team 2022. Flora of the southeastern United States. University of North Carolina Herbarium, North Carolina Botanical Garden.
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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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