Goldenrod and 'the last chance cafe'


I asked Mike Weilbacher, head of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, to join me in the meadow at Morris Arboretum on Friday. What a treat! I'm doing a story about goldenrod - no, it does not make you sneeze. That's ragweed - and Mike was his typical knowledgable self. We saw scores of spiders, bees, wasps, flies, ants, butterflies, moths and birds feasting on the native plants around us. Not just goldenrod, although that's a major player here. Also N.Y. ironweed, milkweed, butterfly weed, grasses and other things even Mike couldn't identify.

He calls this place "the last chance cafe," because it's the last chance for all these hungry creatures to get the nectar, seeds and pollen they need for winter sustenance.

We stood very still and watched intently, happy to be irrelevant in this complicated place.

As Mike and I watched and talked, the cars on Northwestern Avenue continued to speed by. Even arboretum visitors didn't stop to explore. Really, the meadow is a wonderful place for a walk (there are mowed paths). It's  peaceful and beautiful. Humbling, too.

When was the last time you considered goldenrod to be anything but a weedy nuisance? That's how I felt when 'Fireworks' was suggested for my garden. Truth is, a lot of the wild goldenrods are aggressive, though easily pulled out, but there are cultivated varieties (like 'Fireworks') that are tamer. And more compact, if that suits you, and tolerant of shade, if that's your situation, and in all sizes and shapes. The more compact varieties of goldenrod are even recommended for containers. Sounds like a stretch, but that's what they say ...