Sunday, September 20, 2015

Be Curious

Learning requires curiosity. Discovery requires curiosity. Imagine the discoveries that would not have been made without someone being curious: “Hmm, this is different ….” Or better yet, imagine how much more we could discover if we were all curious?

Solidago porteri with modest flowers (in pot)
Recently I had a chance to participate in a discovery. About 6 years ago, a friend asked me about a goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that she’d had in her yard for about 12 years. It was just in a single location, near a couple of oak trees that the builder had left in place. Despite being an avid plant rescuer and having relocated lots of plants to her garden, she knew that this plant was original to the location.

The plant’s characteristics were not like any other goldenrods we’d found locally. We decided that we didn't have enough resources to figure it out then.

Four years later, she decided to move the plant to a sunnier spot and she potted up a division for me when she did it. I tried then to get some help identifying it, but I had no luck and existing plant keys still were not complete for the Solidago genus.

Then this spring, I bought a new book simply because it had a complete key for Solidago. The book is the Guide to the Vascular Plants of TennesseeWe’re only a couple hours south of Tennessee so I figured it might be useful. 

Solidago porteri foliage, mid-stem
When the plant bloomed again this fall, I pulled that book out and tried out the key. The plant keyed out to Solidago porteri, a species that has no county details in USDA although it was shown as native to Georgia (and Georgia only). I decided to get extra help and emailed photos of flowers and leaves to one of Georgia’s botanists in the Department of Natural Resources.

After some additional emails and a trip to my friend’s house to examine the plant with the botanist, the three of us were thrilled to realize that this appears to be a new population discovery in Cherokee County. Two previous populations documented in Georgia were in Jasper (1846) and Morgan (1979) counties; the plant has also been found in small populations in Alabama and Tennessee.

Solidago porteri flowers, more robust (original plant)
So, feel free to be curious about the things you find, in the wild and in your own property. You’ll learn more and you might just discover something that will help the rest of us learn more too.


  1. I appreciate the photos. It makes it so much easier to is plants. I didn't realize there were several varieties of goldenrod.

  2. Ellen, this is really exciting!

  3. Ellen, this is really exciting!

  4. I am amateur photographer living in Brookhaven and Silver Lake is just down the street. In trying identify some blooms I came across your blog. I believe I have here your solidago porteri and the desomdium plants in Silver Lake Park (privately and controlled but open ) Phil Oneacre (