SITY: Ragweed or Not?

In September I had persistent post-nasal drip, and it was giving me one hell of a sore throat. I wondered what was causing it. Was it something in the house?

And then it occurred to me that I had been sitting next to an open window every day. Suspiciously, there was a powdery film all around the window. Pollen? And then it also occurred to me that it was ragweed season. Not that I’d ever been allergic to ragweed (as far as I knew), but it sounded like a plausible explanation.

So I said to my husband, “Do you think we’ve got ragweed growing around here?” And he replied, “Yeah, just look out front!”

I looked at the very beautiful, crazy mess of wildflowers growing out front and was offended on their behalves. Those were asters, goldenrod, and silverrod, not ragweed!


That’s silverrod in the foreground, goldenrod behind, and asters on the right.

But then I had to wonder about the goldenrod. How many times have I heard someone refer to goldenrod as “ragweed?” I had long wondered what the difference was between the two plants. It seemed at least possible that the plant I’ve always called “goldenrod” could in fact be ragweed.

The Internet is not as helpful in this matter as you’d think. I had to plow through a lot of misinformation, but I think I eventually uncovered the truth. As I understand things, those golden flowers are definitely goldenrod, and they don’t cause hay fever. Goldenrod’s only crime is to bloom at the same time and in the same types of places as ragweed. They say that there is one reliable rule when it comes to identifying ragweed: if the flower is golden, it’s not ragweed. Ragweed has small, greenish flowers that don’t draw attention to themselves.

So, now that I knew what to look for, I walked around the rest of my property, looking at all of the other wild patches. And there, on the hill to the side of the house, I found a likely culprit.



I was amazed by how much of this plant I found once I starting looking for it. It grows along the sides of the road all over town. This could be it. What do you think? Ragweed or not?

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