Winter doesn’t mean the end of wildflower identification. Many plants retain easily identifiable seed pods and other features. Although the late summer display of its vibrant yellow flower clusters is over, seaside goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens) is no less interesting in December. Seaside goldenrod is a native perennial aptly named as it is commonly found in dunes and at the edges of salt marshes. It is fairly well adapted to drought conditions, allowing it to survive in the dry, sandy dunes.
By December, the sunny yellow flowers have given way to seed. The plant’s persistent dried leaves, stalks and dried flower parts make it easily identifiable even in the winter. The fruit of the seaside goldenrod is a small capsule connected to a circle of bristly tufted hairs that aid with wind dispersal, similar to the seeds of a dandelion.
Dried leaves and stalk of seaside goldenrod (photographed on December 3 at Sandy Neck in Barnstable).
Tufted hairs of seaside goldenrod seed capsules (photographed in Truro on December 4).
Seaside goldenrod is unusual in the Solidago genus in that it has toothless, hairless leaves that are thicker than the leaves of most other goldenrod species. Even dried, for the most part these relatively broad, oblong leaves are still in evident. In one Truro location where I spotted seaside goldenrod this week, the leaves were actually still somewhat green, and at Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, one plant still retained a single terminal clustered spike of blooming flowers – quite late, given that the plant typically flowers between August and October! This autumn flowering makes seaside goldenrod an important food source for fall migrating monarch butterflies traveling down the Atlantic coast.
Have you seen any interesting winter plant features? Can you identify the plant?
Stand of seaside goldenrod, flooded during a spring high tide (photographed in Truro on December 4), still retaining some green leaves, but with tufted seed capsules evident.
Still flowering seaside goldenrod at Marconi Beach (photographed on December 4).
Seaside goldenrod in full bloom at Nauset Beach in Orleans this past September.