Goldenrod flowers, Boxbourough, MA by  Liz WestPhoto by Liz West

Fast Facts

  • Adopted Nebraska state flower in 1895
  • Botanical name: Solidago serotina
  • Goldenrod is also the state flower of Kentucky and the state wildflower of South Carolina
  • Goldenrod trivia: Goldenrod is often blamed for causing hay fever, which is in fact due to pollen from the ragweed plant
  • Nebraska Flower Delivery

The state flower of Nebraska has been described as a weed, an herb and a wildflower. But what the goldenrod lacks in breeding, it makes up for in presence. The tall wispy plant has grown abundantly throughout the Cornhusker State since well before lawmakers in Lincoln tapped it as their state flower in 1895. “There is probably not a nook or corner of the state where one or more of the numerous species of goldenrod is not found,” wrote Ida Brockman, the daughter of one of the lawmakers at that time. “Nothing could better represent the hardy endurance of Nebraska’s pioneers.” If the pioneering spirit means an ability to thrive in sub-optimal conditions, then the Nebraska state flower is an appropriate symbol indeed.

Goldenrod, taken at Bernheim Forest in Kentucky by T. ParrishPhoto by T. Parrish

The hardy plant flourishes in meadows and pastures as well as on the edges of woodlands, in ditches, along roadsides and in waste areas. Today, while images of pioneers have faded, Nebraskans continue to celebrate their state flower in name, from Goldenrod Park in Bellevue to Goldenrod Lane in Lincoln. Throughout the state, goldenrod plants grow in field-like clumps, reaching heights between 2-3 feet tall. The flowers get their name from their inflorescence, or upper stems, where bright, small flowers grow in clusters. The flower’s rays attract butterflies and bees, which pollinate the plant and feed on its nectar. Goldenrod flowers appear at the end of summer, making the Nebraska state flower one of the last flower “shows” of the year.

Early Native Americans used the plant’s late bloom to their advantage. The Omaha tribesmen spent summers hunting buffalos; the sight of goldenrod blooms let them know that the corn they had planted back home was beginning to ripen. The Nebraska state flower was important to the Native American tribes for other reasons too. They made a tea out of it to treat heart conditions, a painkiller to treat bee stings, and an ointment to treat muscle pains. Some species of goldenrod (there are 125 in the United States) were chewed to relieve toothaches.

Sources:

University of Iowa, Extension News http://www.extension.iastate.edu/news/2007/aug/070901.htm

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldenrod