Photo credit: Robert H. Mohlenbrock @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. 1995. Northeast wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. Northeast National Technical Center, Chester.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Solidago caesia is a perennial wildflower with arching blue-green stems. The stems are clothed in oblong leaves that gradually become smaller as the stems rise. From late summer into fall plants are graced with yellow axillary flower racemes. Plants are tough and adaptable prospering in part sun or part shade with mesic or average soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Solidago caesia occurs through central and eastern North America from Quebec and Ontario to Florida and Texas.
Indigenous plants occur in open upland woods, shaded bluffs, slopes of wooded ravines and rocky cliffs. This goldenrod is usually found in quality upland woods where oaks or other deciduous trees dominate.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-8.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Solidago caesia is a clumping perennial wildflower that branches occasionally in the plant’s upper half. Stems are green and smooth when young becoming bluish or purplish with age.
Lower leaves are up to 5” long and ¾” across. They are oblong and sessile with smooth to toothed edges. The stem leaves are alternate gradually becoming smaller as the stems rise.
From late summer to fall, short racemes of 1-12 golden flowerheads occur along the stems in the upper leaf axils. The flowerheads are about 1/8’ across and each contains 4-5 ray florets surrounding 4-5 disc flowers.
Fertile florets mature into small oblong achenes. Each achene is attached to a small fluffy pappus that allows the seed to be distributed by the wind.
Plants grow 1.5-3’ tall with 1-1.5’ spread. Individuals occasionally form small colonies from underground rhizomes or self-seeding.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Solidago caesia is a woodland goldenrod that prospers in mesic or dry soils. Plants tolerate loamy, clay or rocky soils.
Flowering and form are best with 3 hours or so of sun. In dense shade stems may arch or bend so that pruning may be needed.
Solidago caesia is drought tolerant and somewhat unpalatable to deer and rabbits.
LANDSCAPE USES: This goldenrod is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden or Shade Garden. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Solidago caesia has Showy Blooms and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Deer Resistant Plantings, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Meadows, Perennial Borders, Roadsides and Restoration Projects.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: At woods edge try pairing Solidago caesia with Aster cordifolius, Chasmanthium latifolium, Chrysogonum virginianum, Eupatorium colestinum, Heliopsis helianthoides or Amsonia hubrichtii.
If a substitute is needed, Solidago flexicaulis is another woodland goldenrod with similar height and habitat needs.
TRIVIA: Native bees, wasps and pollinating flies seek nectar and pollen from the flowers. Plants host caterpillars of several moth species. Seed are eaten by songbirds and White-tailed Deer graze on the foliage.
Every autumn Solidago spp. are wrongfully accused of causing allergies. The goldenrods are insect pollinated and have heavy sticky pollen. The plants that do cause allergies and hayfever have lightweight wind borne pollen that is easily inhaled.
Solidago caesia and S. flexicaulis are woodland goldenrods with flowers that originate in the leaf axils. S. caesia usually occurs in upland woods and has blue or purple stem highlights and no petioles. S. flexicaulis occurs in lower woods and wider leaves with petioles and both terminal and axillary inflorescences.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=SOCA4