It’s late August and Goldenrod is everywhere. I walked by Lake Ontario today, and was ecstatic to see several species of bees, three lady bugs, two wasps, one grasshopper, and one monarch butterfly luxuriating on the lush yellow florets of Goldenrod in full feathery bloom. Fascinated by the frantic activity of the bees and the majesty of the monarch in the hot afternoon sun, I stopped to observe.
The monarch grasped florets with its thin black legs, and occasionally opened and closed its orange wings as he or she gathered nourishment for the trip across the lake. I had just learned that a bulge in one of the black veins on the hind wings indicated male gender, but was so taken with the interaction between Goldenrod’s lunch menu and feasting visitors that I forgot to notice. I kicked myself for not having a camera.
The bees clung to florets, even hanging upside down as they gathered the riches. Some looked like bumble bees, some like yellow jackets. Others could almost be mistaken for flies. Sometimes they flew the short trip to a nearby ochre buffet proffered on the tip of another four-foot stem.
Maybe, I thought, just maybe, all these life forms would still be here if I beetled home, grabbed camera, and zoomed back. Luck was with me. Half an hour later, the multi-specied community was still harmoniously harvesting pollen and nectar. Click. Click.
I must admit I had never really appreciated Goldenrod until this moment. What did it do besides give me hay fever? Here by the lake I could clearly see it offered sustenance to winged wildlife.
This past weekend, I had another Goldenrod moment. I drove out to Campbell’s Honey House (on Campbell Road west of Warkworth, Ontario) to get my winter supply of unfiltered honey. I handed Mrs. Campbell my jars.
“Would you like summer honey or fall?” she asked.
“What’s the difference?”
“The bees make summer honey from summer flowers,” she said, “and right now the fall honey is mostly from Goldenrod, and that’s why it’s a deeper amber colour.”
Goldenrod! It offered sweet sustenance to human life, too. How could I have misjudged it all these years? Ignorance is not bliss.
To top it off, my doctor told me that it’s unlikely my, or anyone else’s, hay fever is caused by Goldenrod. Ragweed is the usual culprit. The two just happen to blossom at the same time.
Folks, this land of ours is alive! Let’s keep it that way.
Thanks to Kathryn McHolm for teaching me how to see gender in Monarch butterflies. Thanks to Leslie and Peter Campbell for teaching me about their bees’ honey. And thanks to fellow travelers, the bees, for the sweet winter ahead.
Written by Diane Taylor, author of The Gift of Memoir: Show Up, Open Up, Write