No. 11 in a Series of 253,486.
GOLDENROD (Solidago).—This familiar flower brightens our roadsides and meadows from August through the last frost, but few know its dark and tragic history. There are so many species of goldenrod, often differing in tiny details hardly visible to the naked eye, that even competent botanists throw up their hands in despair of ever identifying a particular plant correctly.
In the past, goldenrod was often falsely accused of causing hay fever and similar allergic reactions (the true culprit being the villainous ragweeds, which bloom rather stealthily at the same time). In Salem, Mass., dried bouquets of goldenrod were introduced as evidence in the court of oyer and terminer during the trial of Fanny Whatcombe, Elizabeth Stench, and Margaret Wither for witchcraft, and this evidence alone was said to have been the chief cause of their conviction. Cotton Mather himself led a hastily assembled constabulary door to door in Salem, rooting out plantings of goldenrod in cottage gardens and closely questioning any older women he found about their use of the herb.
Although the mania for hanging witches faded into embarrassment and silence, the persecution of the goldenrods was only beginning. Throughout the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth, fields of goldenrod fell victim to the most horrifying and atrocious pogroms; and as late as 1936 suspected Klan members, probably aided by the local police, decapitated every single Solidago plant in a five-acre field in Burnt Pie, Miss. Indeed, the time of lynch law may be said to be behind us, but the prejudice the goldenrods face in the United States is nearly insurmountable, and the enlightened gardener who introduces these stately and beautiful perennials into his plantings is still derided or dismissed as a crank.
In Europe, where horticultural sanity prevails, the goldenrod is a prized ornamental, and many American goldenrods have emigrated to Europe as a result.