Thursday, September 11, 2008

Goldenrod World

I have a huge clump of goldenrod at the back of my house. I'm not a botanist, but if I had to guess, I would call it "Tall Goldenrod," Solidago altissima. It has a plume-type flower, rough, toothed leaves with parallel veining, and besides, I can't figure out what else it might be. (If you plant-types recognize this guy, help me out.)

I am slowly learning how to ID goldenrods. According to my new Peterson's Wildflower guide, you first look at the flower type - is it plume-like, elm-branched, club-like, wand-like, or flat-topped?

Next, you look at the veining in the leaves - is it parallel or feathered?

That gets you down to three or four species, then it is a matter of flipping through your guides and guessing. Um, no - I mean, more careful observation and study.

The aforementioned goldenrod, whatever it's name, is in a corner between the NW wall and the screened-in porch, and the space is too tight for the large mower my yard guy has been using to mow my yard this year. So, the weeds have grown high and although at first I was embarrassed by the mess, I am now glad I left it alone. Today, I found this messy patch contains an embarrassment of riches when it comes to insect life.

First bug:
After a little research, I think I've got this one's name right. Goldenrod Soldier Beetle - Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus

Second bug:
No clue on this guy. Any takers?
click on any of my photos to enlarge

The plants were teeming with many varieties of Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) - honeybees, bumblebees, and several different kinds of wasps.

Ordinarily, I am hesitant to get too close to stinging things, but these guys were intent on their task and paid no attention to me, stumbling clumsily around, trying to take a decent macro photograph.

Can you see the pollen baskets on this bee?

There were several skippers, perhaps more than one species, but they were tough to photograph. This is the best I could do, and it is fuzzy.

Besides these bugs, there were lots of teeny, tiny flying things in among the flowers. This was one busy clump of weeds!

The butterfly that first caught my eye and drew my attention to this microworld flew away the minute I stepped out among the goldenrod, not to return. It was relatively large, light brown, with lovely eyespots. Maybe a Northern Pearly Eye? Too bad it got away.

(photo from


Kyle said...

Wonderful pictures, KatDoc, although I had to hold my breath while reading about the goldenrod. (Highly allergic to the stuff, myself.) I've never seen one of those Goldenrod Soldier Beetles -- cool-looking bug!

My son and I found a similar insect treasure house last week, documented here. I'm not quite as good at identifying critters as you, though -- most of ours remain mystery species.

NCmountainwoman said...

Great photos and a good lesson for me. I didn't even know there were different types of Goldenrod. Whatever type you have, it certainly seems to like the place. It is gorgeous.

Lynne said...

You are my goldenrod guru!

KatDoc said...

Kyle: I posted some possible ID's for a couple of your bugs on your site - you have some very nice bug pictures there! Oh, and I'm not sure but I think goldenrod has been mistakenly blamed for fall allergies that are really cause by ragweed. Don't quote me on that, but I seem to remember reading it somewhere.

Carolyn: There are tons of kinds of goldenrod, and I am having a tough time sorting them out.

Lynne: I'm nobody's guru (see reply to Carolyn.)


Susan Gets Native said...

You reinforce my endless blathering about letting some of the yard go back to wild. One patch of goldenrod (regardless of species) and you have a cornucopia of buggies.

Mary said...

Goldenrod Guru! LOL!

Goldenrod is just beginning to yellow here. I examine it along the road as I sit at stoplights. Nice to know there are several varieties. I'll look closer next time.

cestoady said...

I am no bug specialist ,but your mystery bug looks like it is some kind of weevil --- which are sort of dumpy and have that tell-tale ,down-turned snout. Good luck trying to ID it.

KatDoc said...

"EEE! EEE!" I've been "Chimped." Julie Z. couldn't post this reply for some reason, so she e-mailed me the following insect IDs.

You've got a lovely female Sachem --that's the brown skipper--and if I had to guess on the pretty eye-spotted butterfly, it wouldn't be northern pearly-eye, which is a woodland thing, but probably a....

BUCKEYE!! How could you miss that? (Even while in mourning?)

They're common this time of year, and love goldenrod.

The beetle is a flower scarab, probably a Bumble Flower Beetle (Euphoria inda). Now, wasn't that worth waiting for? A Buckeye and a Bumble Flower Beetle?

Thanks, Jules, you're the greatest!

Now, initially when I caught a glimpse of the butterfly, I thought "Buckeye," but for some reason, talked myself out of it. The Bumble Flower Beetle I never would have guessed.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Me neither. All hail the Kaufman Insect Guide! One book can change a life, and this one, plus Taylor's Caterpillars of E. North America, certainly has changed mine.