Aster family (Asteraceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is unbranched and about ½-2½' tall. The central stem is reddish or greyish green, and covered with short white hairs, often in lines. Usually, this stem has winged leaflets at the axils of the upper leaves. The pubescent alternate leaves are up to 4" long and ¾" across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stem. They are greyish green, lanceolate or (more often) oblanceolate, and taper to a petiole-like narrow base. Their margins are smooth or slightly serrate. The narrow inflorescence is shaped like a wand, becoming wider in the middle, and has a tendency to nod. It has numerous yellow compound flowers that each measure about ¼" across. In each compound flower, there are 4-10 ray florets surrounding the disk florets. The blooming period occurs during the fall and lasts about a month. The flowers occasionally have a slight fragrance. Later, the achenes develop with tufts of hair and are dispersed by the wind. The root system consists of a branching caudex (particularly on older plants) and rhizomes. At suitable locations, Field Goldenrod has a tendency to form colonies.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun and dry soil. Because of reduced competition, this plant thrives best in soil containing sand, clay or gravel, but will flourish in fertile soil as well. It's a good choice for difficult locations, such as slopes or areas with poor soil, where little else will grow.
Range & Habitat: Field Goldenrod occurs in most counties of Illinois, where it is occasional to locally common. Habitats include dry areas of black soil prairies, gravel prairies, sand prairies, hill prairies, bluffs, thickets, black oak savannas, sand dunes, fence rows, abandoned worn-out fields, eroded clay banks, and areas along railroads. In some Western states, this plant can be a troublesome weed, but in Illinois it occurs primarily in more marginal habitats.
Faunal Associations: A wide range of insects visit the flowers for pollen and nectar, including long-tongued bees, short-tongued bees, Sphecid and Vespid wasps, flies, butterflies, moths, and beetles. Bee visitors include honey bees, Little Carpenter bees, Halictine bees, and Plasterer bees. Fly visitors include Syrphid flies, Tachinid flies, Flesh flies, Blow flies, and Muscid flies. The caterpillars of many moths feed on the foliage and other parts of this plant, as well as other kinds of insects, including Lopidea media (Goldenrod Scarlet Plant Bug), Calopteron reticulatum (Net-Veined Beetle), Merocoris distinctus (Leaf-Footed Bug). The seeds are eaten by the Prairie Chicken and Eastern Goldfinch to a limited extent. Mammalian herbivores, such as groundhogs, rabbits, deer, and livestock, may browse on this plant occasionally, although it is not favored by them.
Comments: This is one of the smallest goldenrods, which blooms later than most. It can be distinguished from other goldenrods that occur in the prairies of Illinois by the presence of winged leaflets along the central stem and small white hairs on both the stem and leaves. Also, the inflorescence is usually more narrow and wand-like than the others.