I am visited by an old friend when August comes around. Goldenrod! First, I’ll notice a few tall stems growing straight up towards the sun. Some stragglers will find their way to the fence beside the dirt road or along the path to the creek. They’ll make their appearance in the thicket where the blackberries used to grow. Soon I’ll see yellow clusters of flowers and I know Fall is not far behind.
I look for goldenrod every year, not only for the burst of color it will provide, but for the pleasure of its company. Goldenrod is SO much more than a “weed,” and is not responsible for the bad reputation it has gotten as a cause of misery for sufferers of hay fever. (That’s probably ragweed!) The pollen from goldenrod is too heavy to be spread by air and relies on insects and butterflies to get around.
Solidago, commonly called goldenrod, has at least a hundred different varieties and many different uses. It can be dried and used in decorations. It has been used for teas and herbal medicines. It attracts wildlife: among my favorites are Monarch butterflies, honey bees, chickadees, eastern cottontails and white-tailed deer. Goldenrod is the state flower of Nebraska and Kentucky, and is the state wildflower of South Carolina. Even inventor Thomas Edison was said to have experimented with goldenrod to try to produce rubber. His work utilized the leaves of the plant, not the stems or blooms.
Goldenrod can also be used as a natural dye and works well for alpaca, cotton, wool, silk or linen fibers. Depending on how the plant is processed, it will yield colors which range from light yellow to a dark olive-green.
I cut the flowering clusters from the stems and separate them, while a pot of water begins to boil. I add a touch of alum and vinegar to the pot of hot water. I put a handful of alpaca fiber into a net bag to keep most of the plant matter out of it. In a few minutes, most of the plants will have boiled, so I turn the heat down to simmer and put the bag of fiber into the pot, too. The fiber bag will simmer on low heat until most of the color has been absorbed. Then I remove the pot from the heat and let everything cool. I’ll wash the fiber in clear water and let it dry.
When the fiber dries, I can comb or “card” the fiber, spin it into yarn, and have another wonderful memory of goldenrod!