Solidago speciosa (Showy Goldenrod)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:sun; dry, sandy soil; fields, prairies, savannas, railroads, edges of woods
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:1 to 5 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

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

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

[photo of flowers] Erect branching cluster up to 12 inches long at the top of the stem,with small auxiliary clusters arising from upper leaf axils. Flowers are yellow, about ¼ inch across with 4 to 10 ray flowers (petals). The cluster tends to be densely packed, have short branches that are erect to ascending or curving upward, and is conical or cylindrical in outline.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal and alternate, the basal and lower stem leaves sometimes withered away by flowering time. Basal leaves are lance-elliptic to somewhat spoon-shaped, pointed at the tip, tapering to narrowly winged stalk, up to 12 inches long including the stem, to 3 inches wide, and may be shallowly or coarsely toothed or toothless. Stem leaves become smaller, more lance-elliptic, toothless, and stalkless as they ascend the stem, the mid and upper leaves up to about 3½ inches long and 1 inch wide.

[photo of stem] Small leaves develop in the leaf axils especially on the upper stem. Surfaces are smooth to slightly rough textured. Stems are unbranched, single or multiple from the base, hairless except in the flower clusters, may be green or reddish. Plants often form large clumps and may form colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

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

[close-up of seed] Seeds are about 2 mm long, about .75 mm wide, hairless and very pale with numerous darker brown, shallow grooves.


The flower clusters of many goldenrods tend to droop or be pyramidal in outline, but Showy Goldenrod is more cylindric and stays erect, the short branches ascending or curving upward. While Bog Goldenrod (Solidago uliginosa) also has erect clusters and toothless stem leaves, its stem leaves are much longer (to 9 inches) and as its common name suggests it is a wetland species, where Showy Goldenrod prefers drier, sandy soil. Showy Goldenrod does very well in a sunny garden and, like most Goldenrods, is a pollinator magnet.

Breaking news: There were 3 varieties of S. speciosa, which have recently been elevated to species level. At the time of this writing the DNR had not split them out, but we expect that will happen sometime in the future, at which time we will revisit this species account and make changes accordingly. The 3 vars/species are:

  • var. speciosa (S. speciosa) has basal leaves up to 2 inches wide that persist through flowering and are often coarsely toothed, and mid-stem leaves up to 1 inch wide that are not stiff or rough-textured or crowded on the stem;
  • var. rigidiuscula (S. rigidiuscula) has basal leaves only up to ¾ inch wide that may not persist to flowering time and are toothless or shallowly toothed, and mid-stem leaves rarely as much as 2/3 inch wide that are stiff, slightly rough-textured, and often crowded on the stem. Note that crowded (or not) may be subjective.
  • var. jejunifolia (S. jejunifolia) has fewer and narrower leaves, but further details are currently lacking.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Dakota and Ramsey counties. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka, Dakota and Ramsey counties.


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

Posted by: Roger - Rice Creek Trail (north of Co.
on: 2009-09-03 15:44:02

Found this plant yesterday but couldn't find it in my "Wildflowrs of Minnesota Field Guide". So, I turned to your website and, of course, there it was. Thanks for the resource.

Posted by: Letecia - Rochester, MN
on: 2010-08-13 13:29:29

I saw these along the edge of a prairie in SW Rochester. They were really beautiful amidst the purple coneflowers and coreopsis. Butterflies galore! Thanks for the reference. You are on my favorites list!

Posted by: Patsy - St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, Minnesota
on: 2010-12-31 15:11:26

They are very colorful and made my day when I found them. They have become more plentiful after a prescribed burn. They have bloomed late summer into autumn. The leaves seem to turn red, when plants age.

Posted by: kevin - bloomington
on: 2011-09-26 15:37:23

These plants are very beatiful and just made my day when I saw them next to my house around bloomington.

Posted by: Mia - Twin Cities
on: 2013-07-08 21:34:11

I decided to grow a native grassland garden plot this year, to attract local birds and insects and to limit the amount of re-gardening I'd have to do every year, and Goldenrod was among my first plants! I had no idea there were so many kinds, but I ended up with Showy Goldenrod. Thanks for the awesome reference site - I use it all the time!

Posted by: PAUL E - Bloomington
on: 2016-09-18 20:58:23

A pollinator favorite!

Posted by: Gary - Carlton County
on: 2018-07-26 18:21:59

There are several patches of these on the Munger Trail near the Otter Creek. I've never seen them anywhere else in the county and wonder if they were planted or just part of the adventive prairie flora that often occurs along old RR grades this far north (there are several other prairie species I know were not planted as they occurred on the grade before long the trail was made).

Posted by: Julie Kay Leslie - Inver Grove Heights
on: 2020-05-13 13:57:53

I have an abundance of goldenrod that grows on my septic mound and has taken over nearly completely. although they are beautiful, it seems to not play well with other plants. Questions: Is goldenrod invasive and is it OK to grow on a septic mound? Thank you!!

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-05-14 14:12:13

Julie Kay, many of the native goldenrods can be a bit aggressive, in or out of cultivation. Having said that, we have some showy goldenrod in our garden and it has behaved itself pretty well for more than 5 years. If it looks like it will start taking over we'll probably rethink its place in the yard. It is a powerful pollinator plant, though, so I'd hate to lose it.

Posted by: Casey vanderBent - Lake Saint Croix Beach
on: 2020-09-04 17:50:27

It's growing in the ditch nearby for the first time this year.

Posted by: Karen Updegraff - Brimson
on: 2021-08-22 16:26:54

I am about 90% this is present in our meadow and along our road in 27-56-12w, even though it is not supposed to be in St Louis County?

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-08-22 17:28:54

Karen, there are other goldenrod species known to be in St Louis County. The more obvious differences between them are the leaves and degree of hairiness. Having said that, there are and always will be gaps in the official records, since not every inch of every county can be surveyed. If you would like confirmation on the ID, post some images on the Minnesota Wildflowers Facebook page.

Posted by: Michelle M - South St Paul
on: 2022-08-31 17:01:05

How late in the year can Showy Goldenrod be planted in Minnesota and still develop roots to last until next spring? Thank you!

Posted by: K Chayka
on: 2022-08-31 18:09:09

Michelle, transplants are best done when plants are dormant and won't be growing (much) anyway. Trees do require time to set roots before the ground freezes but forbs not so much.

Posted by: Ace Pilot - Whitewater Wildlife Area
on: 2022-09-16 17:44:10

Observed colony of Solidago Speciosa,Showy Goldenrod, growing alongside Minnesota Hwy 74 within the bounds of the WMA

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