FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Solidago odora is an upright clumping perennial wildflower with glossy anise scented foliage. Leaves are alternate and narrowly lanceolate. From mid-summer to autumn, stems are terminated with yellow pyramidal flower panicles. Plants are tough and adaptable, prospering in sunny or partly shaded sites with sandy or average well drained soil.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Solidago odora occurs from New Hampshire to the southern tip of Florida and west to Ohio, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
Plants are indigenous to dry open woods, savannas, sandy pinelands, sandhills, pine barrens, ridges, thickets, ravines, bluffs, old fields and other disturbed sites. This species thrives in sites that are subjected to controlled burns.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 4-10.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Solidago odora is a slender upright perennial with downy green or reddish stems. Plants are mostly clump forming but can expand slowly from short rhizomes.
Leaves are lance shaped, sessile and entire. The blades are glossy and up to 4” long and 3/4” wide. They are smooth beneath but dotted with glands. Foliage releases a licorice or anise scent when crushed.
The central stem is topped by a spreading pyramidal panicle that is about as wide as it is tall. The entire inflorescence can be up to 7” long with many ¼” flowerheads. Each head has 3-4 ray florets surrounding a similar number of disc florets.
The florets mature into small achenes crowned by tufts of hair.
Plants grow 2-4’ tall with a 1-2’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Solidago odora prospers in sunny sites with slightly acidic mesic to dry soil. Plants also thrive in dry open woods and are excellent candidates for difficult dry shaded woodland gardens.
This species tolerates drought, controlled burns and sandy, loamy, clay or gravelly soils and is relatively pest free.
This species is clump forming and not as aggressive as some other Solidago spp. In small manicured gardens, however, it may creep and self-seed too much.
To avoid self-seeding, plants can be deadheaded after flowering.
LANDSCAPE USES: This goldenrod is a good choice for a Wildlife Garden or Meadow. Plants are also used as Butterfly Nectar Plants or as part of a Grouping or Mass Planting. Solidago odora has Showy Blooms and can be used in Cottage Gardens, Herb Gardens, Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Perennial Borders, Rock Gardens, Roadsides and Shade Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Solidago odora with Asclepias tuberosa, Carex albicans, Coreopsis verticillata, Echinacea purpurea, Liatris microcephala or Schizachyrium scoparium.
In difficult dry shaded gardens, Solidago caesia or S. flexicaulis would be worthy substitutes.
TRIVIA: Solidago odora is of particular importance as a pollen and nectar source for native bees.
This species is called blue mountain tea due to the medicinal tea that can be prepared from the leaves. After the Boston Tea Party, colonists drank a concoction called Liberty Tea made from Solidago odora and Ceanothus americanus blended with clover and betony.
Some references recognize two subspecies. Solidago odora subsp. odora occurs from the Florida panhandle north, has stems with lines of pubescence and leaves to 4”. S. odora subsp. chapmanii occurs mostly in the Florida peninsula. It has uniformly pubescent stems and shorter leaves.
Solidago odora is among the easiest goldenrod to identify due to its narrow, entire, licorice scented leaves.