Zigzag Goldenrod, the Lovable Thug

Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) may be a thug, but it’s a thug with good qualities, kind of like Tony Soprano from The Sopranos. (Though I know people with deeply opposing views on Tony’s character.)

dsc_0811 zigzag goldenrod
Zigzag Golderod glowing in the Thicket Corner. 

There is a patch of Zigzag Goldenrod behind the Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) in a part of the back garden I refer to as the Thicket Corner. This is a wildish area that surrounds the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila). Last Sunday Judy and I were sitting in the back sunroom when we noticed how the Zigzag was glowing in the afternoon light. It provided an enchanting vignette.

DSC_0766 back garden zigzag goldenrod
Zigzag Goldenrod close up, with a couple of bumblebees thrown in. 

Zigzag is one of the Goldenrods that is happy in shade. It’s also relatively short (for a member of the genus Solidago), at about 2-3 feet tall. This means it can mix fairly comfortably with other native woodland plants, especially ephemerals.

It is also unusual for a Goldenrod in that the flowers zig and zag their way up the stem, which may be the origin of its common name. As with other Solidagos, the flowers are highly attractive to pollinators.

You can love Zigzag Goldenrod, but do not trust it. Keep it in naturalistic, uncultivated areas. Do not let it get close to any cultivated garden beds with rich soil.

That would bring out Zigzag’s dark side, just as certain opportunities always brought out the predator in Tony Soprano. Rhizomes will invade soft loam with frightening speed, and I am too squeamish to describe the aftermath.

Keep S. flexicaulis in its proper place and we can all be happy, and nobody gets hurt. Capisce?


37 Comments on “Zigzag Goldenrod, the Lovable Thug”

  1. A smile for Wednesday morning – can’t be a bad thing. Joking aside if we know the capabilities of our plants we can enjoy them at their best without worrying what will happen next. Every plant is a case of right place right plant; we forget that at our peril.

  2. This is a new one to me, how pretty. I thought your American Solidagos aren’t supposed to be such thugs as our European ones. As they are so good for bees, I have one. It is called Solidago rugosa. So far it is behaving. It reminds me of a candelabra.

  3. Gosh, I don’t know where to start! First, you have an amazing patch of Zigzag Goldenrod! And it’s beautiful! Next, I can’t imagine it being a thug because I’ve had a little trouble establishing it in my garden. Perhaps it’s because I have such a wild garden and the bunnies and chipmunks and squirrels want to eat it and dig it up? I don’t know why, but now it’s starting to fill in. You give me an idea, however. I’m going to try to spread some seed in an area in the woods that could benefit from a naturalistic patch of the stuff. Happy WW!

  4. Hello Jason, I was just thinking that this plant could make a good appearance in our garden, especially given that it flowers late and looks good in the sun but then I got to the part about not trusting it in rich soil and with other ornamentals and I had to give up the idea for the havoc that introducing it would cause. Thanks for the warning!

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