Stems: stout, little branched, puberulent. Leaves: alternate, lanceolate, triple-nerved, acute at each end, the lower ones sharply serrate and petioled, the upper ones smaller, entire, sessile. Flowers: heads numerous, of both tubular and radiate flowers, on the spreading or recurving branches of the large and dense panicles; involucre campanulate, the bracts linear, imbricated in several series; rays in one series, pistillate; disk-flowers nearly all perfect; corolla tubular, five-cleft,
The Golden-rods, many species of which grow abundantly in the mountain districts, are, together with the Asters, the handsomest of the late autumn flowers. Retaining the rich glow of the summer sun in their ripe yellow blossoms, they brighten the slopes and border the trails with a reflected glory. For the Golden-rod is at home in all kinds of places: by the dusty wayside and in the deep green forests; close to the borders of the ice-born streams, and out in the open meadows, where the rays of light at noontide shine strongest. In each of these localities the tall wands, bearing their wealth of golden florets, wave gently to and fro, and never can we mistake the feathery plumes of the larger species, or the straight woody stems of the smaller ones, which are so thickly crowned by the tiny radiant flowers of this queen of Nature's garden.
It is a more difficult matter, however, to differentiate between the many species of Golden-rod that grow at high altitudes. The Canada Golden-rod is perhaps the easiest one to recognize, since it is the largest as well as the handsomest of its tribe, and has big branching panicles of close-clustered blossoms, very long, narrow, pointed leaves of a dull grayish-green hue, and stout woody stems, which have a cottony appearance and attain an average height of three feet.
So numerous are the Golden-rods on this continent that it is possible to note only a few of the more conspicuous species which the traveller is likely to find and gather in the course of his wanderings amid the great hills, where "Along the roadside, like the flowers of gold That tawny Incas for their gardens wrought, Heavy with sunshine droops the Golden-rod."
Solidago dccumbens, or Field Golden-rod, has tall, stiff, wand-like stems, which terminate in dense compact panicles of flowers, and sparse, long, narrow leaves, with even margins. It is very beautiful to walk across the alpine fields, where " The Golden-rod lights slowly Its torch for the Autumn blaze," and where the other fall flowers unite to celebrate the passing of summer in a riotous splendour of scarlet, purple, and gold.
Solidago midtiradiata, or Northern Golden-rod, is a coarser species with small loose clusters of rather large deep yellow flowers, which terminate the leafy downy stems.
"How deepening bright, like mountain flame, doth burn The Golden-rod upon a thousand hills. This is the Autumn's flower, and to my soul A token fresh of beauty and of life, And life's supreme delight."
Solidago missouriensis, or Mountain Golden-rod, has a perfectly smooth slender stem and short, broad, branching panicles of yellow flowers. The leaves are thick and lance-shaped, with entire rough margins. It grows in dry soil and rears its clusters of golden bloom where the sunlight and shade interlace at the edge of the forests.
Solidago nemoralis, or Gray Golden-rod, is so called on account of its gray-green cottony steins and leaves. The latter are lance-shaped and sharply toothed.
Thus we see that the Golden-rods grow everywhere, from the high hill-crests to the deep sweet valleys; that some species attain to a height of six feet under certain very favourable conditions, while others grow in dwarf alpine forms, well-nigh prostrate upon the ground; some are slender-stemmed, some have stout woody support; some bear big branching panicles of abundant bloom, while others again have but few blossoms closely clustered about their erect stalks. Yet in spite of all these differences between the various species, the Golden-rods are quite unmistakable as a genus.
Field Golden-rod (Solidago decumbens)
Solidago elongata, or Slender Golden-rod, has smooth slender stems and lanceolate leaves pointed at both ends and sparingly toothed. The flowers grow in an elongated narrowly pyramidal cluster, and the bracts of the involucre are linear, the yellow rays being small and slender. The achenes are pubescent.