Nothing Gold Can Stay

Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima) ~ Hardin County

When Robert Frost wrote his wonderfully memorable poem titled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” the ephemeral golds of spring — those first leaves that so quickly lose their luster — provided the inspiration.

That said, I often think of his words in fall, when the landscape is washed in waves of gold: seaside and fragrant goldenrod in coastal areas, tall goldenrod farther inland.  Occasional goldenrods bloom here in every month of the year, particularly along the coast, but autumn is its most glorious season. Having arrived, it already is ending: not even goldenrod can stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Tall goldenrod ~ Nacogdoches Native Plant Center


Comments always are welcome.

68 thoughts on “Nothing Gold Can Stay

  1. “Occasional goldenrods bloom here in every month of the year.” That doesn’t seem to be the case in central Texas. Over here, several other species probably fit the bill, for example silverleaf nightshade and the four-nerve daisy.

    1. It’s the seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) that I’ll see in January/February. Whether it’s blooming early or late is hard to say, but the specific epithet suggests that others noticed its tendency to flower in all seasons. In winter, I usually see it on Galveston Island or at Brazoria; locations that tend to be several degrees warmer even than Houston.

    1. The bees surely appreciate your willingness to allow the flowering to complete. This time of year, every time I come across goldenrod it’s covered with a variety of bees and other insects, making good use of one of the last sources of nectar and pollen for the year. Have you ever thought of allowing some to remain, since several birds enjoy the seeds?

      1. Feeding the bees is as far as I will go. Even though I have pulled some and cut others, seeds have probably escaped and can overwhelm my garden beds. Don’t tell anyone, but I do dump wildflower seed heads in the greenbelt, so they can grow in the wild where they belong. I also notice in the Fall, that birds don’t visit my feeders as much and I do believe that they are finding a nice variety of food in the woods that surround us.

        1. Your secret’s safe with me. And you’re right about the birds and feeders. My doves still come around, and the occasional wren, but November always has been a ‘quiet’ season. Even the bluejays are busy with the acorns, and the squirrels are cleaning the cypress balls off the tree limbs. The possum, however, still comes by for its nightly snack!

          1. Just rode around the neighborhood and Golden Rod is grow along the edges of the woods. Plenty to share. I have to say that during the drought a few years back, the birds did eat all my seeds from flowers, including Salvia. I really noticed fewer plants that year.

    1. It is gorgeous, and the bees love it. I once came across a big vacant lot in Arkansas that was half dense goldenrod and half purple beautyberries. What a combination that was!

    1. I was surprised to find so many species of birds attracted to its seeds: Goldfinches, Swamp Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Pine Siskins, and Dark-eyed Juncos among others. I’d never heard of the association between the Goldenrod Gall Fly and the Downy Woodpecker, either. There’s an interesting article about that here.

    1. I had no idea! And I was amused to read about that “Oh, whoopsie” with the Queen Anne’s Lace. It’s non-native everywhere in the U.S., even though it pops up everywhere just like goldenrod. I’m tickled that I decided to feature this species, instead of our seaside goldenrod. You probably have that too, but it’s more fun to have shown your state flower.

      1. Non-native or not, I’ve always had a soft spot for Queen Anne’s Lace. I associate it with visits to my maternal grandmother in the late ’50s and early 60s. We always took one day, packed a picnic lunch, loaded the car with as many relatives as we could stuff in and spent the day cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was one of the first wild flowers I was able to identify on those road trips.

        1. You and your Queen Anne’s Lace sound like me with the flowering almond I grew up with. Yes, it’s actually in the same family as cherries, and it’s from China (as I recall) but it was one of my favorite flowers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t grow down here, so its been consigned to my past, like pussy willows and forsythia. Still, the memories are sweet.

          As for my grandmother, I always associated her with bachelor buttons. When I see chicory or our skeleton flower now, I think of being allowed to go out and pick a bouquet for the Sunday table.

  2. Kerchoo! Pardon me, Linda, for noting goldenrods other, not so endearing quality. It is a beautiful plant, however, and always tempting from a photographer’s point of view. As for Robert Frost, one of my all-time favorite poets. I’m ever so glad that I have stuck with roads less traveled. –Curt

    1. Curt, it seems you’re one who still believes that goldenrod is responsible for seasonal allergies. Not so! As it happens, ragweed and goldenrod bloom at the same time, but ragweed has such nondescript flowers that it’s hardly noticed. It’s the ragweed pollen that causes problems for people, because its pollen is wind-blown. Goldenrod pollen, on the other hand, is big, sticky, and heavy; it depends on bees and such to move its pollen around.

      As an article about this goldenrod species puts it:

      “Goldenrod is NOT responsible for your allergies. The pollen is heavy and sticky, designed for insect pollination, not wind. The only way to get goldenrod pollen in your nasal passages is to stick the flower up your nose!”

      So there you are: free to enjoy the plant without any hesitation at all — especially if you find it on one of those less-traveled roads.

      1. Laughing, Linda. That’s good to know. I did know about ragweed. Now I will no longer feel a need to sneeze when I see goldenrod. It does decorate many of my backpacking trails.

        1. Or at least if you feel a need to sneeze, you’ll know the pretty gold plant isn’t responsible! Thank goodness I grew out of my worst allergies; this Iowa gal was allergic to corn pollen.

    1. GP, whatever was causing your mother to go all sneezy and wheezy, it wasn’t the goldenrod. I grew up assuming it was the cause of my allergies, but I’ve since learned that isn’t so. The pollen of goldenrod is so heavy and sticky, the wind can’t move it around. The plants have to depend on bees and such to carry out the work of pollination. On the other hand, the pollen of plants like ragweed is light, and it’s meant to be windblown. That’s what causes our problems.

      I got a real kick out of this comment by someone writing about this goldenrod, which happens to be the South Carolina state flower:

      “Goldenrod is NOT responsible for your allergies. The pollen is heavy and sticky, designed for insect pollination, not wind. The only way to get goldenrod pollen in your nasal passages is to stick the flower up your nose!”

      I’m not going to try that myself; it’s enough for me to know that my itchy eyes aren’t caused by this beautiful plant!

  3. “Nothing gold can stay.” That makes me sad, for I know Winter with its bare branches is right around the corner. And I don’t expect the jewelry council (or whatever those folks are called) would appreciate such a sentiment. After all, isn’t Christmas a huge time for engagements, weddings, and such — all requiring a bit of gold for completion?!?

    1. Everything here still is so green it’s hard to imagine winter on the way, but when I came home tonight, it was getting dark about 6:45. Next week’s the time change, and that means we’re just a month and a half or so from the solstice, and dark at 5:30. Walgreen’s already has traded its pumpkins for Christmas doo-dads, so it won’t be long before nature’s gold is gone, too: except for the gold that sparkles in those jewelry cases, of course.

    1. There’s nothing like sunflowers against a blue sky, but a nice, tall goldenrod offers some stiff competition! I sure was pleased to find this one, although I had to resort to getting ‘down and dirty’ to eliminate the messier little ones from the frame.

  4. That poem always stayed with me, at least the part about “first green,” when I would see that new growth. Thanks for the images of goldenrod. Remember it as as child but haven’t seen any in years.

    1. It’s one of those poems that’s stayed with me, too. There’s something about translucent new growth that’s so appealing, whatever its color. Just now, the peppervine that’s been cut back is showing new leaves, and they’re a wonderful mahogany red — but they, too, soon will turn to green.

      I was curious about your comment about not seeing goldenrod, and when I went looking, I discovered something interesting. The closest this species gets to you is Calhoun County. Even seaside goldenrod skips your county. None is shown in the surrounding inland counties, either — you’re in a goldenrod desert!

  5. What a glorious sight in Autumn (Fall).

    To my knowledge, our indigenous trees, while stunning in their flowers, are nothing like the rich Autumn hues on your side of the world. I believe most of the really colourful patches I see are from non-indigenous varieties settlers brought out in the 1800s in our city parks and gardens.

    1. We do have some vibrant fall colors — even here, where the glory of transformed trees ranges from rare to nonexistent. Goldenrod, purple beautyberry, the reds of sumac and Virginia creeper: they’re all delightful, and help to keep the landscape interesting. Those of us who come originally from the midwest or New England miss those glorious trees in fall, but eventually we learn to look for, and appreciate, the gifts we have.

  6. I used to dislike goldenrod because it signaled the end of summer, but now that I know what a good native plant it is for wildlife, I celebrate it. We have S. altissima here, too. Guess it adapts to a range of conditions. It is gorgeous against a deep blue sky!

  7. Sometimes the common names of flowers puzzle me, leave me wondering, not in outrage but in curiosity, “What were they thinking?” Goldenrod I get. Yep. Frost is at his best when he is at his most concise. When he’s pared it down to the Goldilocks point.

    1. You started me thinking about some of the names that have amused me: ‘pussytoes’ comes to mind. Goldenrod is perfectly descriptive, and the flowers are so beautiful. I used to think of it as weedy, and I suppose if it was invading my garden that would be appropriate, but out in the country, fields of it are glorious.

      As for Frost, there’s a long list of his poems that I love, and all of them are more-or-less concise. A couple of days ago I spent some time browsing my collection of his work, and enjoyed it immensely.

    1. It’s not only beautiful, it has so much to offer to pollinators and birds — and presumably to small mammals that eat its seeds and insects that make their homes in its stems. Like sunflowers, it’s willing to plant itself almost anywhere; I’ve seen some growing along our local road-and-bridge construction site, despite the best efforts of heavy machinery to do away with it.

  8. Here in central Florida, we celebrate anything smacking of “autumn” color. Goldenrod is definitely worthy of celebration!

    Over a hundred varieties in N. America and over 20 in Florida. One can spot gold in the forests and fields almost year ’round. The birds, bees and animals appreciate it more than we do.

    Mr. Frost’s poem reminded of lines from, I think, one of your favorite poets:

    All day
    on their airy backbones
    they toss in the wind,

    they bend as though it was natural and godly to bend,
    they rise in a stiff sweetness,
    in the pure peace of giving
    one’s gold away.

    ~ Mary Oliver

    Thank you for giving away some of your gold today.

    1. I never had come across that Mary Oliver poem, and it’s a treasure. I’ll admit I’d have been happier if she hadn’t called goldenrod a ‘sneeze-bringer.’ That poor plant just can’t catch a break! I suppose once a reputation’s established, it’s hard to change people’s perception.

      I never would have thought of goldenrod as a ‘forest’ plant until I found it at the Sandylands refuge. That’s very much like I imagine some of your Florida territory: sandy soil, pines, and relatively open and sunny so that forbs can thrive. I missed the beauty there last spring, but I’ve had a couple of autumn visits now, and even though I was a little late, the goldenrod was there.

    1. I didn’t have even one clue what your comment meant, but now I do. I’d never heard of The Outsiders. Is it worth watching? I love that Frost’s poem made it into the film.

      1. The movie is good, but the book is better.
        Now I’m wondering if you are older or younger than me. I am the oldest of the Gen Xers. Back in the day, S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume books were what we read in junior high.

        1. I have about twenty years on you; I just turned seventy-five. In my junior high years, we were reading the Lake poets and Greek playwrights, and a good bit of regional American and European fiction. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a bunch of 9th graders performing Oedipus Rex!

          1. LOL! I will pass on even college freshman performing Oedipus Rex!

            The book or movie of The Outsiders is good. As in most cases, the book is better and then the movie is fun to see. You’ll recognize most of the young actors who became household names. But then again, all those actors are like me, oldest of the Xers.

  9. One more reason for me to have Texas envy. I love goldenrod and wish it was with us longer. That said, sometimes things are more precious when they have shorter durations. And that said, I’d like to be in the position to make the comparison. Tall goldenrod is a glorious plant.

    1. To be fair, the tall goldenrod here fades much ahead of the seaside goldenrod. I suspect that proximity to water or wet conditions, with the water’s moderating effect on temperatures, is partly responsible. And, as I mentioned to Steve, the seaside goldenrod is the species I see throughout the year. There may be only a few stems of it emerging in January or February, but it’s always around. Even last year, there was a bit of goldenrod and Indian paintbrush blooming ahead of that terrible freeze — and it didn’t take them much more than two or three weeks to return once the nighttime temperatures rose above freezing.

      That said, it’s sure great to see this species around again. It’s gorgeous.

        1. It really shines in that environment, doesn’t it? I usually see it in the midst of ‘clutter’ — hard to separate from other grasses and such. Your image is beautiful.

  10. It’s always interesting to me to see the wild species of plants that we have (usually smaller) garden versions of over here. It must be amazing to see lots of goldenrod growing in fields and adding a golden glow to the land.

    1. It can be quite a sight. This species is tall, bold, and dramatic, but it’s already well on its way to seed. On the other hand, the seaside goldenrod, much smaller and often hidden in grasses, continues to bloom away. It’s not as eye-catching for humans, but if you look any any stem of it, there will be insects of every sort feasting away — or lurking, in the case of various spiders and beetles hoping to catch their own meals.

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