This fall the woodland floor is blanketed with Goldenrod and Sneezeweed alongside a branch of the Chicago River. They bloom among layers of fallen trees whose remains will be nutrients for future seasons’ blooms. Goldenrod is what its name appears to be while Sneezeweed’s name may result in wrong assumptions.
This Goldenrod was a mere two feet tall, possibly stunted by our summer drought and heat. This native is possibly Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa), I cautiously suggest, because with over one hundred possible Goldenrod species proper identification is beyond my expertise. As every part of Goldenrod is edible and thereby used for many purposes its scientific name “Solidago” is appropriate meaning “whole” in reference to its use in teas and a multitude of health food recipes.
The name Sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum)
does not conjure up an image of a plant you would purposely seek out on a woodland walk. Its name refers to Indians’ use of the dried leaves as “snuff” to ward off evil spirits. This daisy-like bloom is a cheery addition along the side of the river bank and among a near-by field of Goldenrod. Both plants have an unmerited reputation of causing seasonal allergies while the prolific Ragweed is the real guilty party for a large portion of autumn sneezing.
Note: Any pollen may cause one to sneeze; but these plants tend to create little reaction in people compared to Ragweed.