Aster family (Asteraceae)
Description: This native perennial plant is about 2-3' tall and unbranched, except for the flowering stalks near the apex. Missouri Goldenrod produces both flowering and non-flowering shoots. The central stem is light green to dark red, terete (round in circumference), and hairless; the lower portion of this stem may become slightly woody with age. The alternate leaves are up to 5" long and ¾" across, becoming smaller as they ascend the central stem. They are narrowly lanceolate, narrowly oblanceolate, or elliptic in shape, and serrated along their margins. Each leaf usually has 3 parallel veins (a central vein & 2 lateral ones) and tapers to a petiole-like base; however, on some upper leaves, only the central vein may be prominent. Both the upper and lower sides of each leaf are hairless. From the axils of the middle to upper leaves, short secondary stems may develop with tufts of alternate leaves; these secondary stems often fail to produce flowers. A panicle of yellow flowerheads develops at the apex of fertile shoots, spanning up to 6" long and 4" across. This panicle has recurved flowering stalks that are either hairless or hairy. Each flowerhead is about 1/8" across; it consists of several yellow disk florets that are surrounded by about 6-12 ray florets. At the base of each flowerhead, there are green to yellowish green floral bracts in an overlapping series; these tiny bracts are linear-oblong. The blooming period usually occurs from mid-summer to early fall and lasts about a month for a colony of plants. Each floret is replaced by a bullet-shaped achene with a small tuft of white hairs; distribution of the achenes is by wind. The root system produces fibrous roots and rhizomes; some older plants may produce a small caudex. Missouri Goldenrod reproduces vegetatively by offsets and sexually by seeds; it often forms sizable vegetative colonies in which only the outer shoots are fertile and produce flowers. The inner shoots of such colonies are infertile and usually smaller in size.
Cultivation: The preference is full sun to partial sun, mesic to dry conditions, and soil that contains loam, clay-loam, or rocky material. Like many goldenrods, this species is easy to grow; it spreads less aggressively than Solidago canadensis (Canada Goldenrod).
Range & Habitat: Missouri Goldenrod occurs occasionally in most areas of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Habitats include mesic to dry black soil prairies, dolomite prairies, hill prairies, limestone glades, prairie remnants along railroads, and thickets. It can be found in both degraded and higher quality habitats.
Faunal Associations: Small bees, wasps, flies, and beetles visit the flowers for nectar and/or pollen, including Chauliognathus pennsylvanica (Goldenrod Soldier Beetle) and Epicauta pensylvanica (Black Blister Beetle). Many grasshopper species feed on the foliage of Missouri Goldenrod (see Grasshopper Table), as do the leaf beetles Microrhopala vittata, Trirhabda borealis, Trirhabda canadensis, Trirhabda convergens, and Trirhabda virgata. The caterpillars of many moth species feed on this and other goldenrods (see Moth Table). Other insect feeders include stink bugs, plant bugs, the larvae of small flies (Tephritidae), thrips, and the leafhopper Paraphlepsius solidaginis.The Greater Prairie Chicken eats the foliage, while the Eastern Goldfinch and various sparrows eat the seeds to a minor extent. Although goldenrods are not a preferred food source, the White-Tailed Deer, Cottontail Rabbit, and livestock eat the foliage occasionally. Prairie Voles and Meadow Voles eat both the seedheads and foliage.
Photographic Location: The Buffalo Trace Prairie at Lake-of-the-Woods, Champaign County, Illinois.
Comments: This is one of the goldenrods that has high fidelity to prairies, although it is less common in Illinois than it used to be. Missouri Goldenrod is rather variable and can be difficult to distinguish from other Solidago spp. (Goldenrods). It blooms later than Solidago juncea (Early Goldenrod), but either earlier or about the same time as Solidago canadensis (Canada Goldenrod). Like Early Goldenrod, Missouri Goldenrod has hairless foliage, but its lower leaves have 3 conspicuous parallel veins. The leaves of Missouri Goldenrod often become much smaller as they ascend the central stem (particularly on sterile shoots), while the ascending leaves of Early Goldenrod decrease only slightly in size. Unlike Canada Goldenrod, Missouri Goldenrod has hairless leaves and stems. Another similar species, Solidago gigantea (Giant Goldenrod), is taller than Missouri Goldenrod, blooms later in the year, and its leaves decrease in size only slightly as they ascend the central stem.