Eppo data sheet on Invasive Plants Solidago canadensis identity preferred scientific name

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EPPO data sheet on Invasive Plants
Solidago canadensis

Preferred scientific name: Solidago canadensis L.

Other scientific names: Solidago altissima var. gilvocanescens (Rydb.) Semple, Solidago dumetorum Lunell, Solidago elongata Nutt., Solidago gilvocanescens (Rydb.) Smyth, Solidago lepida DC., Solidago pruinosa Greene

Taxonomic position: Asteraceae.

Common names: Canadian goldenrod (English), verge d'or du Canada (French), lechuguilla, vara de oro del Cana, vara de San Jose (Spanish), Kanadische Goldrute (German), Canadese guldenroede (Dutch), kanadai aranyvesszö (Hungarian), verga d'oro canadese, verga d’oro del Canada (Italian), tango (Portuguese).

EPPO computer code: SOOCA

Notes on taxonomy and nomenclature

In its native North American range, differences defined at the species level by Beaudry and Chabot (1957), Croat (1972) and Scoggan (1979) may be described as varieties or as part of a species complex, revision of which may be expected. For the purpose of this datasheet, S. canadensis is being treated in the broad sense, including six varieties: var. canadensis, var. gilvocanescens, var. hargeri, var. lepida, var. salebrosa, and var. scabra. The taxonomic status of European populations continues to remain obscure, however. Weber (1997, 2000) states that S. altissima (syn. S. canadensis var. scabra) is widely recorded in Europe, which Beaudry and Chabot (1957) identified as a hexaploid (2n=54), though only diploid plants were identified by Carano (1921), Malecka (1988), Musial (1989) and Cornelius (1990). Numerous hybrids have been recorded, e.g. with S. gigantea (Wagenitz, 1979), S. sempervirens (Scoggan, 1979) and S. virgaurea (Nilson, 1976; Sunding, 1989).


S. canadensis is an erect rhizomatous perennial with annual aboveground shoots and persistent belowground rhizomes, with a mean height of 150 cm (25-250 cm) tall. One to several rhizomes emerge near the base of the dying shoots in autumn leading to a branched rhizome system, and each rhizome produces a single aerial stem from the rhizome apex the following spring. Stems are branched only in the inflorescence, glabrous at the base, weakly to densely pubescent at least in the upper half, and often reddish. Plants of var. scabra have nodding shoot tips during growth. Leaves are triple-nerved, pubescent beneath, lanceolate, often acuminate, with margins mostly serrate, occasionally entire. Inflorescences form broad pyramidal panicles with recurving branches and a central axis. Bracts of the involucre are linear, obtuse or somewhat acute. Ray florets are lemon yellow, female and fertile, disc florets bisexual and fertile, corolla 2.6 mm long. Achenes are pubescent, 0.9-1.2 mm long, with a pappus of 2.0-2.5 mm.

S. canadensis var. scabra differs from var. canadensis mainly on the size of flower heads, the degree of stem and leaf pubescence, and the presence of a nodding shoot tip during growth (Croat, 1972). S. gigantea is distinguished from S. canadensis by its glabrous and glaucous stems, larger flower heads with bright yellow florets, and the brownish-white pappus, with the calyxes of ligule flowers of S. gigantea also longer than the tubular flowers.

S. canadensis is a herbaceous, seed and vegetatively propagated perennial.

S. canadensis is a rhizomatous hemicryptophyte with seed propagation essential for long-distance dispersal and the colonization of unoccupied sites. In Europe, seeds show no dormancy, not requiring scarification or stratification for germination (Voser-Huber 1983) whereas they tend to require cold in their native North America. The most suitable conditions for germination are undisturbed soil surfaces and gaps in uncut grasslands. After seedling establishment, vegetative propagation becomes important, rhizomes breaking dormancy in early April in central Europe, each producing a single shoot, the inflorescence appearing in July-August, though the phenology varies considerably within and among populations (Weber and Schmid, 1998). S. canadensis is insect-pollinated, producing 13,000 achenes per stem in cultivated lands, but only 1100 in a native tall-grass prairie (Werner, 1976; Werner and Platt, 1976). Seeds are easily dispersed by wind in dry weather or they remain on the stem if wet and disperse during winter. Occasionally, rosettes may be formed in autumn, but normally rhizomes produce shoots in the spring of the next year.
Environmental requirements

The wide native range of S. canadensis in North America and introduced range in Europe suggests a broad climatic tolerance and the great likelihood of ecotopic differentiation. S. canadensis can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions (Werner et al., 1980). Within the European and Japanese exotic ranges, S. altissima occurs from sea-level to mid-montane regions up to 800 m altitude.

Climatic and vegetational categorization

S. canadensis is associated with areas with a cool to hot wet summer and a cool to cold winter (wet or dry). It is hardy to zone 3 (-40 to –34°C). It is associated with the vegetation zones: temperate deciduous forests and mixed conifer forests (extending to temperate steppes).

S. canadensis is a serious weed in riverbanks/canalsides; rail/roadsides; wasteland and urban areas, and is a principal weed in managed forests; dry meadows and wetland edges. In its native range, S. canadensis is found mainly in forest edges and roadsides, abandoned fields and other unmanaged areas which are colonized rapidly after abandonment. In the introduced range, the species occupies the same habitats with the addition of dry meadows of high conservation value and in the wetland edges.


In its native range, S. canadensis can occur in any crop, however, it does not have serious impacts in annual crops as it can be easily controlled by tilling. However, it is a problem when invading poorly managed pasture and can be a considerable weed in forest nurseries and in perennial gardens and crops (Werner et al., 1980).


S. canadensis is propagated by seeds and rhizomes. Seeds are produced in very large numbers and long-distance dispersal is by wind, with achenes released 1 m above the ground having a maximum dispersal of 2.4 m in winds up to 5 metres per second (Werner et al., 1980). Short-distance dispersal is possible by rhizomes through infested soil. Accidental introduction is possible through human activity, such as collecting fruited shoots as an ornament and then disposing of them on rubbish heaps. Seeds and rhizomes may also be dispersed as a result of movement of soil in the course of building work, and by attachment to vehicles or in the slip-stream of road and rail vehicles. S. canadensis seeds are available by via mailorder catalogues and websites of commercial nurseries and botanical gardens as an ornamental species, and this may lead to further introduction.

S. canadensis is cultivated mainly as an ornamental plant in Europe, though it is also valued by beekeepers (Stefanic et al., 2003), a medicinal plant (Apati et al., 2003), with potential as a source of natural herbicides (Solymosi, 1994).

EPPO region: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzevogina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal (mainland, Azores), Romania, Russia (all), Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine.

Asia: Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Ryuku), Russia (all), Turkey.

North America: Canada (Ontario), USA (all states).

South America: Brazil (Sao Paulo).

Oceania: Australia (New South Wales), New Zealand.

S. canadensis is native to the USA and Canada between the latitudes 26°N and 65°N. Included above are records for S. altissima, including the majority of those from Europe (Weber, 1997; Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2004) taken as S. canadensis var. scabra (Weber, 2003). It was introduced into Europe as an ornamental plant in the 1600s or 1700s (Wagenitz, 1964; Weber and Schmid, 1993), with the first observations of wild populations in Europe around 1850 (Wagenitz, 1964), and rapid spread until 1950, though further increases may be expected (Weber, 1998). S. canadensis var. scabra spread rapidly in Japan in the 1970s, and from Honshu, was confirmed in Hokkaido and Okinawa in 1975 (Nakagawa and Enomoto, 1975).


Economic impact

No quantitative studies on the economic impact of S. canadensis are available. It is also an alternative host of insects that can be vectors of crop pathogens.

Impact on biodiversity

In Europe, S. canadensis is considered as an environmental weed (Weber 2003). Large areas infested by S. canadensis are the result of inappropriate land-use management, allowing S. canadensis to establish and outcompete native plants leading to gross changes negatively affecting both flora and fauna to the point where character species may disappear altogether.


S. canadensis has negative impacts on biodiversity, the environment, forestry production, human health, rare or protected species, native fauna, native flora and tourism.


S. canadensis has spread in a number of European countries after its introduction as an ornamental from its native North America. It continues to be available from commercial nurseries and botanical gardens and as such further introduction is likely. It is an undesirable invader on account of its large rhizomes and vigorous growth leading to gross changes in the native vegetation. It is easily controlled by cultivation but difficult to control in natural areas due to its persistence.


(Y)es, (N)o



Is the species invasive in its native range?



Has it proved invasive outside its native range? (i.e. is it an invasive alien species)?



Is it highly adaptable to different environments?



Does it have high reproductive potential? (e.g. for weeds; prolific seed production, high germination rate, reproduction by rhizomes, tubers, stolons or root/stem fragments).



Is it highly mobile locally? (i.e. for weeds, propagules capable of moving long distances by wind, water, attachment to machinery, animals or humans).



Can its propagules remain viable for more than one year?



Does it tolerate, or benefit from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc?




Is it competitive to agricultural and plantation crops or pasture plants?



Does it cause impacts on ecosystem processes? (e.g. hydrology, sedimentation, fire risk, nutrient cycling etc.).



Does it adversely affect natural communities? (biodiversity, native populations, endangered or threatened species) by competition or hybridization (underline one or both).



Does it adversely affect community structure? (e.g. effects on the food chain, elimination or creation of a canopy).



Does it adversely affect human health? (e.g. allergies, effects on water or air quality).



Does it have sociological impacts on recreational patterns, aesthetics, property values?



Is it harmful to animals? (e.g. poisonous plant parts or vector of animal diseases).



Does it produce spines, thorns or burrs (or other discomfort)?



Is it a host or vector to recognised pests and pathogens of agriculture or forestry etc?


Likelihood of entry/control


Is it highly likely to be transported internationally (a) accidentally? (e.g. as a contaminant).



Is it highly likely to be transported internationally (b) deliberately? (e.g. as an ornamental)



Is it difficult to identify / detect as a commodity contaminant? (e.g. due to small seed size)



Is it difficult to identify / detect in the field? (e.g. similarities to other species, inconspicuousness)



Is it difficult / costly to control? (e.g. resistance to pesticides)



Mechanical control

Large infested grassland areas are effects of the poor previous management practices, and in grasslands, continuous mowing or grazing is necessary every year to prevent its establishment. Systematic mechanical control is effective against Solidago species, with at least two mowings per year necessary. After 5 years of annual mowing, the cover of S. canadensis var. scabra was only 12% compared with 41% in uncut areas, and fertilizer applications tended to reduce cover in uncut areas (Joshi and Matthies, 1996).

Chemical control

Young plants are sensitive to soil herbicides, but during the vegetative period soil herbicides are ineffective. At heights of 10-15 cm, glyphosate and several contact herbicides such as 2,4-D and picloram are suitable for the control of S. canadensis var. scabra (Weber, 2003).

Biological control

The specialized North-American herbivores and pathogens are absent from Europe. Some generalist insects consume it, but their effects are not significant. The insects that have expanded their host range to feed on S. canadensis since its introduction to Switzerland are almost solely opportunistic, unspecialized ectophages not closely attuned to the growth cycle of S. canadensis. The high number of phytophagous insect species found on S. canadensis in North America suggests that there is no shortage of possible control agents (Jobin et al., 1996). In Japan, S. canadensis exhibits bacterial leaf spot caused by Pseudomonas syringae pv. solidagae (Sato et al., 2001).

Regulatory status

In Switzerland, S. canadensis is on the 'black list', i.e. neophytes whose negative ecological impacts have been documented, and which are problematic from a conservation point of view (CPS-SKEW, 2003).


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