The goldenrod flower – which makes up the solidago genus – consists of roughly 100 species that belong in the large asteraceae family. These winter hardy, herbaceous perennial blossoms are the state flower of Kentucky; however, their distribution is considerably wide, growing not only in North America, but South America, Europe, Eurasia and Mexico. These plants are tall, slender spikes which are topped with a vivid yellow or golden-hued inflorescence. The arrangement of the inflorescence is a panicle which contains miniscule finger-like branches, a number of external ray flowers, and several internal disk flowers which are all brought together by a small, greenish involucral bract.
Despite being unfairly blamed for seasonal allergies, the goldenrod flower is actually thought to have some potent medicinal qualities. Although the goldenrod flower has not become widely used in the United States, in Europe it has long been utilized – and occasionally even tested – for its anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to reducing inflammation, goldenrods are commonly made into teas and supplements to help treat a plethora of conditions including diabetes, gout, high blood pressure and asthma – just to name a few. As well as being a powerful herbal remedy, the goldenrod flower is also steeped in mythology and lore. One such legend serves to highlight this plant’s medicinal qualities. A man named Chi-nu who lived during the Sung dynasty spent his days clearing away ti plants. On one of these days he came across a large, menacing snake and shot it with a sharp arrow. The day following, he went to continue his gardening work, but found a pair of young men crushing a handful of goldenrod. When Chi-nu asked them what they were doing, they told him that their master had been shot by an arrow the day before, and they were creating a salve to help heal his wounds. Taking inspiration from this, Chi-nu made it his purpose to share this healing practice with the world.
Another story tells of two sisters who, under the protection of an Herb Woman, are turned into a beautiful yellow goldenrod and a stunning purple-blue aster. Superstitious folklore advises people to carry a bunch of goldenrod flowers when seeking out treasure, while keeping a gall will help prevent rheumatism.
Goldenrod flowers are thought to hold many symbols – from caution to encouragement, luck to good fortune. As a gift, these blossoms are commonly given in a mixed bouquet, and are mostly presented to those venturing forth on new, but risky, ventures.