Contributing Author

By Zola Nesbitt, CWC Watershed Steward

Every second Saturday of the month, CWC (Coastal Watershed Council) leads River Health Days where volunteers help plant and care for a variety of native plant species to increase biodiversity and habitat complexity, and support a healthy river ecosystem.  Western Goldenrod (Euthamia occidentalis) is one beneficial plant you may spot growing along the river. 



Western Goldenrod is a native herb that grows between 2 and 5 feet tall. It is a plant that thrives in damp soil by wetlands, rivers, and streams. Once mature, the plant will send creeping rootstalks along the ground to expand outwards, allowing it to fill large patches. When growing Goldenrod, it is good to deadhead the flower stalk after the seeds have disappeared so that the plant has more energy to allocate toward new growth in the following season! Goldenrods grow large yellow inflorescences, or bunches of flowers, to attract insect pollinators. This resilient plant has adapted to our urbanized watershed along the San Lorenzo River and provides critical habitat and resources for our native pollinators. 


Ecological Significance 
Western Goldenrods often grows alongside sages, wild roses, and common yarrow. They thrive in coastal/chaparral biomes like here in Santa Cruz! Their flowers are pollinated by insects such as honey bees and migratory monarchs. Their seeds are primarily dispersed in the wind. Local birds like finches also love to eat Goldenrod seeds and will disperse them through their poop.


Traditional Uses 

Western Goldenrod has traditionally been used for many medicinal purposes. The leaves can be dried and turned into powder to be used as a disinfectant. Teas can be made from the leaves to promote feminine hygiene and aid in healing urinary tract infections. Salves and oil from the plant are used to help with seasonal allergies, colds, and the flu.


Myth Buster 

Many folks suffer from seasonal allergies in the summer due to triggers like wind-dispersed pollen. Goldenrods are mistakenly seen as the cause of these allergies because of their annual seed dispersal in the summer. Do not be fooled! Their flowers have adapted to be pollinated by insects, not the wind. Goldenrod’s wind-dispersed seeds cannot give you allergies and it would be difficult to come into contact with the pollen unless you touch the plant or put your face in the flowers. Ragweed, a close cousin of goldenrod, is the primary culprit and is likely irritating your itchy, runny nose.


Love Goldenrods? Join CWC for a River Health Day! 

You can make a difference in the San Lorenzo ecosystem by caring for Western Goldenrods and other native plants that enhance the ecological value of San Lorenzo River habitat. Join other volunteers at monthly River Health Days to plant more native species. Sign up here!


Barbara Smith, Home & Garden Information Center, Clemson University. “Don’t Blame Goldenrod for Your Allergeis.” 10 Sept. 2018.

Elizabeth Craig, Pollinator Pathway. “Fields of Gold Plant Goldenrod for Specialist Bees and Migrating Monarchs.” 1 Sept. 2021.

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