Sneezy was a purveyor of misinformation. 

Though he didn’t have access to social media to hasten its spread, Snow White’s dwarf friend might be to blame for goldenrod’s bad reputation.  Though unintentional, Sneezy cannot deny responsibility for the slander of this gilded flower, insisting it is the cause of his always stuffy situation.

In truth, goldenrod is insect-pollinated, not wind-borne, so it isn’t the cause of his or your sniffles and sneezes. Ragweed is the most likely culprit. Even though it may superficially resemble goldenrod, it shouldn’t be confused with the latter’s bold and brilliant hues.

Goldenrod is the quintessential late summer bloom. As lilacs herald the end of school, goldenrod signals the beginning.  

Take strength from this species; “strength” is the Latin translation of its genus name, Solidago. The plant’s fortitude is spiritual and physical. The beauty of a field of these flowers inspires and its form feeds our bodies.

While there are many species of goldenrod, a few have been noted for their edibility. One is Canadian goldenrod and the other is sweet goldenrod.

The latter boasts a history of patriotism and rebellion, as well as consumption. Known as Liberty tea, the leaves of sweet goldenrod were used as tea after the Boston Tea party. This brew has been described as anise-like and was so well enjoyed that it was even exported to China. The flowers can also be used as tea, eaten fresh or dried, and the leaves serve as a spinach-like green for soups and stews.  

Wildlife will also partake in a goldenrod feeding frenzy, with insects of all sorts using the flowers. Goldenrod honey is a beloved fall treat, and birds will get in on the action of finding a meal. Woodpeckers seed goldenrod not for its floral flavors, but rather for its faunal fortunes.  

Goldenrod hosts many insect galls, which are swellings in the plant created by wasps or other insects that lay their eggs into the newly-created cavities. Those eggs will develop into larvae, which are an irresistible protein source to those woodpeckers that feed in the goldenrod plant pantry.

More than a botanic powerhouse, goldenrod has taken its place in color culture. In 1958, Crayola made a hue of that name. In more modern history, goldenrod has at least five named distinctive worldwide website colors.  

The flower has inspired a host of namesakes. There is a showboat is Missouri that has been named a national historic landmark, a record company, a cargo ship, and an annual horse race.

Another famous goldenrod is a car, a very fast car that held the land speed record from 1965 through 1991.  Though the record was eventually beaten, the speed of the goldenrod car clocked in at 409.277 miles per hour, showing an extreme example of this flower’s power.

Speed, color, beauty, taste, and science all contradict Sneezy’s maligning of goldenrod. His associates might have their own opinions.

Could this plant delight Grumpy, despite his usual attitude? No matter what the others think, Doc might have the most respected voice and he would no doubt recommend this potent plant.

Suzan Bellincampi is islands director for Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown and the Nantucket Wildlife Sanctuaries. She is also the author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.