What is the biggest cause of hay fever?

Autumn Allergies – Goldenrod vs. Ragweed

Autumn allergies abound this time of the year and the leading plant to take the blame is goldenrod.  But, my friends, goldenrod is not the culprit of your sniffles and sneezles.  In a case of mistaken identity, goldenrod takes the full blame for fall time hay-fever.  The real culprit hides, camouflaged, behind the blooming beauty that is goldenrod.  What is behind your autumn misery?  Ragweed.


Goldenrod is a plant that I’ve tried to get customers to add to their gardens for years.  It comes in varieties like Little Lemon which only reach 10 to 14 inches tall and Fireworks which reaches 3 feet.  Goldenrod adds bright, golden-yellow tones to the garden and provides a lovely contrast to the purple asters that dominate our fall gardens.


goldenrod brightens a fall garden

Fireworks Goldenrod adds amazing color to a fall garden.


The name alone, though, evokes wide-eyed terror to allergy sufferers.

So, why does goldenrod take the hit for the real culprit?  Goldenrod and ragweed bloom at the same time.  While ragweed stands tall with its unassuming flowers, Goldenrod produces showy flowers that act as a beacon for our color-loving eyes.


Goldenrod pollen is dispersed by pollinators

The pollen in Goldenrod is sticky and requires pollinators to move.


Goldenrod does produce pollen, and yes, a smidgen may occasionally tickle your sniffer.  The pollen that goldenrod produces, however, is sticky and requires bees and other flying insects to disperse.



Ragweed – Ambrosia psilostachya
By Krzysztof Ziarnek Kenraiz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11217456


A single plant of ragweed, on the other hand, can produce around a billion grains of pollen in a season.  The pollen can remain in the air for days and travel 300 to 400 miles.

Let’s reflect on this, shall we?  A pretty plant that requires pollinators to spread its pollen versus an ugly plant that wreaks havoc on sensitive sinuses.  I think we have a winner.  And why, yes, every garden should enjoy the show-stopping display of goldenrod, and every gardener should give this beauty a chance.