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A stately plant for the fragrant garden, Solidago odora (Sweet Goldenrod) is a clump-forming, slowly enlarging perennial boasting upright stems clad with lance-shaped, dark green leaves, 4 in. long (10 cm), that smell like anise when crushed. In midsummer to early fall, it bears densely packed clusters of yellow flowers along one side of slightly arching branches. Attractive to birds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, Sweet Goldenrod provides a bold splash of color in the late season garden. Easy to grow, low care and trouble free, it is a great choice for sunny beds and borders, meadows or open woodland gardens. Its leaves and dried flowers may be used in teas.It is treated here in a narrow sense including only var./ssp. odora in FNA. Solidago chapmanii is excluded as a separate species. Michaux (1803) treated the species as Solidago retrorsa Michx. Specimens in P and P-MICH he labeled as S. odora are in fact collections of the distantly related S. tortifolia Ell. of S. subsect. Triplinerviae (Semple et al. 2020).
Sweet Goldenrod is found in open woods and savannahs in coastal states from New Hampshire south to Florida and over to east Texas, and inland as far as Missouri. (In northern Florida there is a separate subspecies, Chapmanii.) It occurs in most of the counties of NC. Sweet Goldenrod grows to 2-3 feet in height and 1-2 feet across, with an anise or licorice scent, released by its leaves when crushed, that readily differentiates it from all its Solidago cousins. It tolerates poor, dry soils and light shade, but performs best in full sun and is a graceful presence in both the sunny garden and for difficult dry, shaded woodland garden locations. Bright golden flowers appear in August-September in orderly rows on the upper side of the plume branches.
It is well behaved, unaggressive and drought tolerant, and the sessile leaves even provide fresh flavor for tea. Like other Goldenrods, Sweet Goldenrod attracts a range of flying critters to the yard, birds to butterflies to bees, providing high quality nutrition for a range of insect pollinators. And just in case you missed the memo, Goldenrods do not cause Hay Fever — that is a response to windborne pollen from species such as Ragweed.Solidago odora Ait. is widely distributed in the southern U.S. with the range extending north to southern New England in the east. It is distinquished by its smooth, entire, single veined, lanceolate-deltoid leaves that give off a strong anise odor when crushed (Semple & Cook 2006 FNA). The involucres are usually green to bright yellow becoming a bit rusty with age; phyllaries are lanceolate with hyaline margins and single veined. The species is diploid 2n=18 throughout its range. (Source: uwaterloo.ca)