Solidago nemoralis (Gray Goldenrod)

Plant Info
Also known as: Field Goldenrod, Old-field Goldenrod
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, sun; dry sandy or gravelly soil; prairies, roadsides, railroads, open woods, outcrops, dunes
Bloom season:August - October
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branched cluster up to 7 inches long at the top of the stem, the whole cluster often leaning and nodding near the tip. Branches are short, with flowers all arranged on one side (secund). Flowers are yellow, short-stalked, about ¼ inch across with 4 to 9 ray flowers (petals). The bracts (phyllaries) surrounding the base of the flower and the short stalks are covered in short, white hairs.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of stem leaves] Leaves are basal and alternate, somewhat variable in shape, from long and narrow to nearly spoon shaped, but are generally wider towards the tip and gradually taper at the base, rounded to pointed at the tip. Basal leaves are up to 4 inches long and ½ inch wide, toothless or scalloped around the edges depending on the variety, tapering at the base to a winged stalk. Stem leaves are narrower, stalkless, toothless or with a few minute teeth, becoming progressively smaller as they ascend the stem, often with small leaflets in the axils especially on the upper stem. The texture is rough and color gray-green from short, white hairs. Stems are erect to ascending, unbranched, often reddish especially the lower stem, covered in short hairs, and may form colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed with a tuft of light brown hairs to carry it off in the wind.


Gray Goldenrod is one of the easier Solidago species to identify. The relatively short stature (often 2 feet or less), usually leaning/nodding cluster, and hairy leaves and stems distinguish it from other Goldenrods. There are 2 subspecies of S. nemoralis, both of which are found in Minnesota: subsp. nemoralis has basal leaves that are usually scalloped around the edge and the involucre (set of phyllaries) is 4.2mm long or less, and subsp. decemflora has basal leaves that are usually toothless and the involucre is 4.6mm long or more. Now here is an example of gardeners causing ecological grief. We were contacted some years ago by the University of Potsdam in Germany, which was publishing a book on invasive species in Switzerland (“Invasive Pflanzen der Schweiz”) and looking for Gray Goldenrod images for their publication. While this is one of those species that you can't give away in the US, someone apparently decided it would be desirable in Europe and introduced it to the garden trade there, where it escaped cultivation and has become problematic. Sigh.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Anoka, Ramsey and Scott counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Ramsey and Winona counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Pat - Meeker co
on: 2010-11-06 09:53:39

I found a plant growing in the prairie near a railroad track. Very diminutive and attractive looking. I collected seeds this past week.

Posted by: Patti Morris - Kanabec county
on: 2019-09-01 10:12:07

This grows sparsely at the tree line in my neighbors old pasture. This year it volunteered in my "backyard" wildlife refuge garden. It is a splendid addition!

Posted by: Luciearl - Fairview township, Cass County
on: 2019-09-03 08:50:52

Grows in my ditch along with several other types of Goldenrod I'm trying to identify.

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