Plant of the day: dune goldenrod

Nature lies disheveled, pale,
With her feverish lips apart,—
Day by day the pulses fail,
Nearer to her bounding heart;
Yet that slackened grasp doth hold
Store of pure and genuine gold;
Quick thou comest, strong and free,
Type of all the wealth to be,—
Goldenrod!
(by Elaine Goodale)

 

Solidago spathulata

Late-blooming goldenrod flowers are rooted so deep into cultural consciousness (witness the somewhat overwrought poem, above, and many more like it) that I”ve always assumed that they are more common than they actually are in these parts. But here in Marin, the three species of goldenrod only appear occasionally, singly or in patches that are so sparse that they don’t really deserve the name. Yet in other parts of the country, the hundred or so species  that go by this name are weedy and abundant, washing fields and roadside ditches with yellow. Goldenrod is the state flower of Nebraska, Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware, and (formerly) Alabama.

But back on the bluffs of Point Reyes, a goldenrod sighting is more likely to mean a tattered straggler like the one pictured here. This is dune goldenrod, or Solidago spathulata. It has leathery, slightly sticky leaves and a small spike of the characteristic yellow flowers. It is found growing near the coast, in rocky or sandy soils.

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