Ragweed or Goldenrod?

Don’t curse those beautiful yellow flowers growing along the Fairfax County Parkway and elsewhere throughout the county.

They’re not what you think.

I know, you think it’s ragweed (Ambrosia). But it’s not. It’s innocent goldenrod (Solidago).



Ragweed flowers are more likely to be green; goldenrod is a brilliant yellow.

Ragweed stems can have a purple tinge.

Ragweed leaves tend to be raggedly looking with lobes (like the dips between your fingers) while goldenrod leaves sort of resemble long, wide blades of grass.

Goldenrod stands out, because of its deep yellow coloring. Ragweed is pretty mundane looking and easily overlooked. All weeds look alike, right?

The big difference is that ragweed is the single most likely cause of hay fever, the bane of 10% to 30% of Americans in late summer and early autumn. Say, right about now.

A square-mile field of ragweed plants can yield sixteen tons of pollen in a year, yet only a millionth of a gram can start an allergic response of the kind that can send many of us into fits of sneezing, scratching, coughing and wheezing. –Source: Neese, R.M. and Williams, G. Nothing to Sneeze At.

So when you cough and sneeze as you pass those golden blooms, don’t curse the goldenrod (pictured at the top of the page).

It’s ragweed, whose light pollen can float up to 400 miles. You can run, but you can’t hide.


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