Goldenrod, September’s Child


Goldenrod was on my mother’s list of least desirables, an aversion imprinted on her in early childhood by my grandmother, who, as a teenager, carried with her into the 20th Century a set of myths and folklore about plants, food and health. In her pantheon of seasonal allergens, goldenrod ranked above ragweed and grass pollens and would never have found its way into her vast store of healing herbal tinctures. No doubt she would have suffered the vapors had she learned goldenrod extracts and pollen would become an effective anodyne for respiratory and digestive ailments as well as the treatment of UTI’s.

Notwithstanding the healing properties of the plant, Northeast Ohio’s landscapes are colored and textured by this wildflower as it contributes to the region’s autumn aesthetic. Rising, rhythmically, sweeping over meadows and fields, filling culverts with color, goldenrod induces the warm nostalgia of early autumn, the bittersweet longing for summer before its passing, reminding us perhaps of Shakespeare’s 18th Sonnet (“ … and summer’s lease hath all to short a date.”). Or, the qualities of Saudade, evoking the sweet melancholy and yearning for a past place or person, so inextricably infused into the culture of the Portuguese and Spanish.

Adding to an emotional state of mind, last week cumulus clouds formed the trailing edge of an autumn cold front, competing with patches of goldenrod as they caught brief intervals of sunlight in Squire Valleevue’s eastern meadow. Not evident in this photograph are the purple and white asters blooming in profusion this week- good timing for a visit to this remarkable landscape in the Chagrin Valley.