Solidago houghtonii

Houghton's Goldenrod

FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Houghton's goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) is a flowering plant in the aster family. It was named in honor of Douglass Houghton, a doctor, botanist, civic leader, and Michigan's first State Geologist. It can be found along the Great Lakes shorelines, where it grows in close association with other rare plants and animals, like Pitcher's thistle (Cirsium pitcheri), dwarf lake iris (Iris lacustris), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), and the Lake Huron locust (Trimerotropis huroniana). Houghton’s goldenrod was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act on July 18, 1988.

Scientific Name

Solidago houghtonii
Common Name
Houghton's goldenrod
FWS Category
Flowering Plants
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Similar Species

Characteristics
Similar Species

Grass-leaved goldenrod (Solidago graminifolia) and Ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis) are superficially similar species that commonly occur with, and are sometimes confused for Houghton's goldenrod. Grass-leaved goldenrod can be distinguished by its more leafy stem with withering or absent basal leaves, narrower 3-5 nerved leaves, and an inflorescence composed of distinctly smaller flower heads with short ray florets and with the heads borne in tight clusters on leafy, smooth branches. The hairy achenes of grass-leaved goldenrod also enable it to be readily distinguished from Houghton's goldenrod. Ohio goldenrod is a more robust species, which can be distinguished from Houghton's goldenrod by its relatively broad, flat, ovate-lanceolate leaves, a dense, many-headed inflorescence with smooth, non-hairy branches, flower heads with distinctly smaller ray flowers, and smooth but un-ribbed achenes (Service 1997).

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Houghton's goldenrod is characterized by its flat-topped, branched inflorescence comprised of relatively few, showy, large flower heads that may number from 5 to 30 or more. The branches and flower stalks of the inflorescence are finely hairy and the achenes (fruits) are smooth and ribbed (Penskar et al. 1996).  Long, narrow, pointed leaves are well-scattered along the stem and taper to a slightly clasping base (Service 1997). Rhizomes are commonly produced from the caudex, resulting in the production of additional clumps of stem (Service 1997).

  • Stem height: up to 29 in (75 cm)
  • Leaf length: 7.8 in (20 cm)
  • Leaf width: 0.8 in (20 mm)
Color & Pattern

Houghton's goldenrod flowerheads are made up of 5 to 30 or more flowers that consist of 6 to 9 large, pale to bright yellow ray florets and several yellow disc florets. The stems are often somewhat reddish in color (Service 1997).

Characteristic category

Life Cycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Houghton’s goldenrod is an herbaceous perennial, arising from a branching, thickened base with a strongly fibrous root system. Stems are frequently clumped, produced vegetatively by means of relatively short rhizomes (Penskar et al. 1996). Numerous shoots or ramets are commonly produced and indicate that vegetative propagation is an important form of reproduction for this species. Houghton’s goldenrod is insect-pollinated and several insect families, such as Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, and Orthoptera are attracted to goldenrod flowers, which provide both nectar and pollen (Jolls 1994). Seeds require light and an obligate overwintering period for germination (Service 1997).

Life Cycle

Houghton's goldenrod flower in August and early September, but may flower as early as late-July, and not uncommonly well into October. Fruiting and seed dispersal occurs mostly from August through November, and undoubtedly later in the year (Penskar et al. 1996).

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Houghton's goldenrod is primarily found on calcareous beach sands, rocky and cobble shores, beach flats, edges of marl ponds, and most commonly, the shallow, trough-like interdunal wetlands that parallel shoreline areas. Houghton’s goldenrod also occurs on seasonably wet limestone pavement, which is the species’ more typical habitat in the eastern portion of its range, primarily in Ontario, and where carbonates precipitate at the surface (in a marl fen) in New York. It usually occurs where there is a relatively low density of competing vegetation.

Coastal

The land near a shore.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Houghton’s goldenrod is primarily found on the northernmost shores of Lakes Michigan and Huron, ranging east to the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada (Penskar et al. 1996). Disjunct inland populations occur in Crawford and Kalkaska counties in Michigan, with a second disjunct population in New York (Service 2019). Within the U.S range, Michigan has 75 element occurrence records of Houghton’s goldenrod within nine counties (Cheboygan, Chippewa, Crawford, Delta, Emmet, Kalkaska, Mackinac, Presque Isle, and Schoolcraft) (Service 2020) and New York has only one documented occurrence in Genesee County (Young 2008). 33 populations have been documented in Ontario (Jones 2015).

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