If seasonal allergies are making you suffer — sneezing, headaches, itchy eyes and cough — it's probably a result of the pollen from plants that bloom in autumn.

Both goldenrod and ragweed bloom at roughly the same time each fall, but allergies to goldenrod are rare.

Your sniffles are most likely caused by ragweed.

Chances are, though, you won't even notice it blooming. The plant has small, green, inconspicuous flower spikes, which are not meant to attract pollinating insects. Its divided leaves resemble ferns. Ragweed also has lots of branches.

Ragweed relies on wind pollination, part of the reason it is so aggravating. It produces vast amounts of pollen whose particles are extremely small and lightweight, allowing it to carry for hundreds of miles.

To control ragweed, pull it by hand or mow it before the plants begin making pollen.

Ragweed also can be controlled with nonselective herbicides such as glyphosate, but be careful because it will kill any plant it touches. You’ll get the best results if the plants are still small. Follow the manufacturer’s label.  

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On the other hand, goldenrod produces showy yellow flowers that are attractive to pollen-spreading insects such as bees, beetles, butterflies and wasps. In contrast to ragweed, goldenrod pollen is large, heavy particles that do not travel very far from the plant without the help of pollinators that carry it from flower to flower.

Goldenrod's foliage is more strap-like with large, yellow flower spikes on top. You can find it growing on roadsides and forests.

But it is beginning to show up in the nursery trade, with even showier golden blooms than the wild flowers.

Some ornamental goldenrods are Crown of Rays, Fireworks, Golden Baby, Gold Rush, Little Lemon and Solar Cascade. Ornamental varieties are shorter and less aggressive than most native species of goldenrod, and this makes them more adaptable within any sunny perennial garden.

Like sunflowers, goldenrod is native to North America. The wildflowers bloom from late summer through the fall. A member of the aster family, goldenrod has more than 100 different species. Most grow to heights of 3 to 4 feet, and have been used with herbal medicines throughout history.

Goldenrod is an easy-care plant that tolerates a wide range of soils as long as the drainage is good. Plants grow best and offer the most flower production in full sun. Once established, they tolerate drought and require minimal care. They return each year, and clumps should be divided every five or so years.

Pair goldenrods with purple-blooming asters, salvias or mums, and you’ve got a gorgeous purple and gold fall display to make any Tiger fan proud.


Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.