Goldenrod Glorified

by Green Deane

in Beverage, Miscellaneous, Plants, Toxic to Pets/livestock

 Solidago Odora: Liberty Tea


After the Boston Tea Party of 1773 the colonists had only one good alternative: Goldenrod tea, and not just any Goldenrod, but the Solidago odora (sol-i-DAY-go oh-DOR-uh.) It became known as “Liberty tea” and was even exported to China.

As a kid growing up 120 miles from Boston I never thought of Goldenrod as a revolutionary potential tea. It was one of two blossoms that shaped my view of the world. In mid-May when the Lilacs bloomed I knew school was almost over for the summer. Who can ever forget the great joy that brought. And in late August the goldenrod began to bloom. Back to school. School always started the Tuesday after Labor Day. And to be fair that was usually exciting… for about a day.

Goldenrod is found throughout North American and you will read that nearly any goldenrod will make a tea, and that may be true if you have herbal applications in mind. But, leading the genus for a pleasant tasty tea is S. odora.  It’s one of 25 goldenrods found locally and grows from Nova Scotia south to Florida west to Arkansas and Texas. It has also traveled some.

Goldenrod was introduced into Europe some 250 years ago.  Solidago canadensisis now common in the wild there. In Germany  it is considered an invasive species, which bring up a word associated with this plant: Ruderal.

Goldenrod is known as ruderal species, that is, it is among the first to take advantage of disturbed ground. It grows so quickly it can often makes a cleared site fragrant and attractive. It has also has gotten some bad public relations regarding allergies, most of it undeserved. Its pollen is heavy, doesn’t travel well, and is not the allergen it was thought to be. Usually the problem is ragweed. Goldenrod  has, however, been linked to cases of dermatitis. The leaves are also toxic to sheep. And although goldenrod tea is a wholesome beverage, a toxic fungus that sometimes grows on the leaves may poison tea made from infected leaves. So make sure there are no problems with the leaves you collect.

As a kid I remember it as a particularly smelly because it was a common one to make into homemade and very inaccurate arrows for playing Cowboys and Indians. We Indians always won because unlike the cowboys with their fake guns we had Goldenrod arrows launched on alder bows. The alders were fairly smelly too. (I think that’s how the Cowboys knew where we were hiding.)

Of course bees use the Goldenrod as do butterflies and oddly woodpeckers. Bees make an excellent honey from the Goldenrod. The butterfly’s dependence is totally different.  The butterfly lays an egg. The eggs becomes a larva that form a gall. Then certain parasitic wasps lay eggs in the larva in the gall. Woodpeckers, apparently experts in finding hidden food, peck open the galls and eat the growing insect inside.

Also know that the Goldenrod is not just another smelly flower with a pretty face. Thomas Edison experimented with goldenrod to make rubber, which it exudes naturally. In the 1930’s he managed to get 12% rubber out of each plant and Henry Ford gave Edison a Model T with tires made out of Goldenrod rubber. Edison turned his rubber research on the Goldenrod over to the government which carried it on until synthetic rubber was discovered during WWII. That ended Goldenrod as a source of rubber. However, its rubber is very strong and long-lasting, read better than synthetic rubber.

The Goldenrod is the state flower of Kentucky, Nebraska and South Carolina. It used to be the state flower of Alabama but was replaced with the camellia. Goldenrod also the state herb of Delaware. You didn’t know some states have State Herbs? You do now.

Solidago is from Latin and means to strengthen. This is in reference to the medicinal uses of the plant. Odora means fragrant.

 Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Goldenrod is a perennial, 2-5 ft tall, hairy stems, alternating stemless single-veined narrow dark green leaves, smooth or hairy margins, pointed tips, 1-4 inches long becoming small towards the top, and smells like licorice when crushed (from small glands.) Dense  golden-yellow flowers, late summer to mid-fall,  in branched clusters at the tops of the stems. Goldenrods hybridized, so you night not be able to identify the exact species. You want to find a Goldenrod whose leaves smell like anise.

TIME OF YEAR: Leaves anytime, blossoms late summer to fall. Flowers yield a deep yellow dye.

ENVIRONMENT: Naturally prefers poor sandy soil but grows well in fertile soil. Will also grow in clay, full sun or semi-shade but will do better on a reasonably fertile site.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Dried leaves and flowers to make tea. Make sure the leaves are fungus free. A toxic fungus can grow on the leaves.  reports the seeds of several species were used as food.  There are herbal applications.


Solidago odora  leaves and tops (picked during the flowering period) have been used to make herbal medicines for a variety of disorders, including digestive and urinary problems, wounds, ulcers, and cancers. Hocking, 1997, reports S. canadensis was used as a carminative, diuretic and stimulant. Other uses included:  Boiled in water for a syrup for treating colds; an oral poultice made from leaves was placed for a toothache; a poultice the roots to soothe burns and boils; a tea for bruises; a salve for insect stings and saddle sores on horses.


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Rob Parkinson August 5, 2016 at 23:15

There are a couple of typos here. Does anyone need a proofreader?


Green Deane August 6, 2016 at 06:38

Those are copyright traps…


Carol Reese July 12, 2016 at 12:25

The gall on the goldenrod is actually made by a fly, and has nothing to do with a butterfly. During the summer a female adult goldenrod gall fly lays an egg on the stem of the goldenrod plant. The egg hatches and the larva immediately bores into the stem and begins to eat. The activities of the growing larva stimulate or “irritate” the plant and it responds by making extra thick layers of plant tissue around the larva. These extra layers form the gall. In the fall, the larva forms an exit tunnel that ends close to the outer surface of the stem, then returns toward the center of the gall for the winter. In the spring it pupates and by late May or early June emerges from the gall, breaking through the thin surface of its exit hole, as a fly with banded wings. Adults usually live about 2 weeks.

A similar gall that is eliptical, not round is produced by the Goldenrod Gall Moth, Gnorimoschema sp.


Dave Peters August 6, 2015 at 17:11

What are the effects of sheep eating this plant


Green Deane August 7, 2015 at 17:25

If the “goldenrod” is in the genus Solidago there is no issue. Some plants called “goldenrod” which are NOT Solidago can be a problem such as Haplopappus heterophyllus, which is found in the Southwest US.


Paul Tappenden August 4, 2015 at 16:15

Hey Deane, I enjoy the amount of information you include in your posts. This is a great place to come when I want to get background information on plants.

I try to write something on a daily basis about wild plants on my Facebook page, just to whet people’s appetite. I don’t have the time to do the research and so keep my posts fairly brief. This is a great place to send them when they want more details.

Now I’m gonna make myself some Liberty Tea.

By the way, I make a tea that combines Sweet Goldenrod, Spice bush leaves and Sassafras leaves. Deeeelishus!!!


MoonlightEmpire December 11, 2014 at 16:25

Deane and Others:

There may be a mis-print in the information about the use of the seeds of Solidago Odorata as an anesthetic.

I have found a few other places on the net (mostly informal) that repeat the exact statement written above (use as anesthetic).

I have found one source, though still informal, that also has the same sentence, but in the wrong place.

At about the 9th paragraph down, it says that Solidago Odora was used for headaches and flatulence…and the very NEXT plant was the one used as an anesthetic (Datura Stramonium)…NOT the Goldenrod.

The way that it is written, however, it would be very easy to make this mistake.

The web-page is describing material found in a book by Porcher called Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economic, and Agricultural.

I would be very interested if someone could confirm and/or clarify…especially if someone has the book or can find the exact writing of it online. Also, if anyone has any additional sources for the use of Goldenrod seeds and/or anesthetics, please let me and others know.

Best to everyone. Thanks Deane for all your work.


MoonlightEmpire December 11, 2014 at 16:41

Here, I found the complete text of Porcher’s book:

Page 474-475 shows: “The seeds are soporific, and are said to induce delirium and a partial forgetfulness, and to be used by women in the East for purposes herein stated…”

It goes on to describe the purposes, but it is in a different language. Someone, please, can you help translate?

At that same link, you will see that the Goldenrod is referenced for a purpose other than anesthesia.

Someone please, confirm or refute. Thank you.


Beau February 10, 2015 at 15:33

Google translate produces this from the Latin:
From India and other aromatics in Inebriantia lozenge received seed, performed to please the senses, and, as some will, which aimed at the speed, the more confidence they will emerge. “Kæmpher, exotic, 650.” causes sleep so deep that it can be violated with impunity, purity girls, the cruelty that took poison. “Hall, TC” from women untrustworthy Turks gynecoeis enclosures, to deceive consopiendos and husbands of other Maji desideratorum embraces their satisfaction, use, and so the old woman from Hamburg decent female lover with whom he is unaware of committing, narrated intoxicate.


MoonlightEmpire February 17, 2015 at 20:50

Although it’s hard to read, you can get the idea of the historical use of the Datura species being referenced.

Since I last posted about the mix-up, I purchased Francis Porcher’s book (the one that was originally mis-referenced and then copied in numerous places throughout the internet)…and indeed, Goldenrod was not used as an anesthetic.

I highly recommend Porcher’s book because of its style of writing due to the time period it was written…resulting in bits of information that are lost or entirely absent from many modern herbal publications.

The matter being settled…we can now move on to more fascinating tid-bits about the Goldenrod…such as: Are Goldenrod seeds primarily meant to be wind-blown for dispersal or animal-fur-spread (or otherwise)?

A superficial glance would suggest they are meant to be wind-blown seeds…but long-term observation shows that they do not disperse, even in strong wind, rain, and snow. Brush up against them, however, and many seeds cling to your clothing…and the fur of the dog and cat.

What are the magnificent Goldenrods existential intentions…?


Green Deane February 18, 2015 at 11:47

Thanks. I did not say they were an anesthetic. I said they were used prior to anesthetics to help patients.

beth September 28, 2014 at 17:15

That camphor smelling one is likely camphorweed. It blooms here at same time as goldenrod and wingstem, all with bright yellow flowers


Joshua October 6, 2013 at 17:14

Would tea from any goldenrod be okay other than varying in quality? Or are there some to avoid altogether?


Green Deane October 9, 2013 at 07:35

You can make tea from any goldenrood but it tends to be forgettable except of the anise flavored one.


Ellen August 30, 2013 at 12:35

These flowers seem to be everywhere in the Twin Cities, although from a distance (driving past them on the highway) I suppose they can’t be told apart from ragweed.


Mandi September 3, 2015 at 15:38

Ragweed has green flowers and the leaves have a different shape.


Emme May 22, 2013 at 15:45

THANKS! I got so many new facts from this website! I am doing a project for a high school and this…is perfect for me to top it off with. thanks fur the facts


Helen September 29, 2012 at 16:50

I have these in my backyard but they smell more like camphor than anise. Is this a normal thing? I live in southern WV.


Green Deane October 1, 2012 at 11:40

There’s a huge variety of golden rods and aromas.


Robert M. November 7, 2011 at 14:11

The one I think is most common here is Solidago fistulosa or Pine Barren Goldenrod. The dead and dry stem works great as a spindle on a Caesar Weed wood board for friction fire. I do not know about its leaf tea.


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