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Wisconsin Plant of the Week

Solidago ulmifolia Muhl. ex Willd.

Asteraceae (Aster or Sunflower Family)

Common Name:

elm-leaved goldenrod


Elm-leaved goldenrod is found in dry to mesic deciduous woods mainly in southern Wisconsin.  It needs filtered sun, so itís common in dry woods dominated by oak and hickory or in the gaps and at the edges of maple woods where the canopy opens and the shrub layer is still sparse.

Wisconsin has about 18 goldenrod species all with alternate leaves and most with very similar golden-yellow flowers that bloom from late July into October. The arrangement of the flower heads, the leaf pattern, the growth form and the habitat distinguish most species.

The leaves of elm-leaved goldenrod are smooth and thin, sharply toothed along the edges and abruptly tapered at the base to a distinct stalk.  By the time the flowers bloom the leaves toward the base of the plant have dropped off.  The remaining leaves decrease in size gradually going up the smooth stem. The leaf veins are pinnate with a single midrib.  (Most of the common golden rods in abandoned fields have leaves uniform along the stem and with three prominent veins.)

Elm-leaved goldenrod grows from a short woody stem just below the surface of the ground, so the arching flower stalks are solitary or with a few branches, but not in large patches like the goldenrods that grow from long creeping rhizomes.  The small flower heads have only 3 to 5 ray flowers, and are arranged in crowded clusters, with all heads on the same side of the branch.

Other woodland goldenrods are zig-zag goldenrod (S. flexicaulis) and rough-leaved goldenrod (S. patula). Zig-zag goldenrod also grows in mesic woods, but on erect stems with flower heads all around each branch in small clusters in the leaf axils. Rough-leaved goldenrod grows only in very wet woods.

  • Origin of the name: Solidago: solidatio, L., a making firm or solid, refers to its use as a medicine; ulmifolia: ulmus, L., an elm, folium, L., a leaf
  • Range:  Eastern N. Amer. from the coast to e. MN and e. TX
  • WI Range: Common only south of the Tension Zone
  • Common associates: Red and white oaks, basswood, hog peanut, arrow-leaved aster
  • Wetland Indicator Status: UPL
  • Coefficient of Conservatism: C = 5 (S&W), C = 5 (MI)
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