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

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EPPO data sheet on Invasive Plants
Solidago gigantea

Preferred scientific name: Solidago gigantea Aiton

Other scientific names: Solidago pitcheri Nutt., Solidago serotina Aiton, non Retz., Solidago serotina var. gigantea (Aiton) A. Gray, Solidago serotinoides A. & D. Löve, Solidago shinnersii (Beaudry) Beaudry

Taxonomic position: Asteraceae.

Common names: Giant goldenrod, late goldenrod, smooth goldenrod (English), verge d’or géant, solidage tardif (French), vara de oro gigantiflora (Spanish), Reisen-Goldrute (German), late guldenroede (Dutch), magas aranyvesszö (Hungarian), verga d’oro maggiore (Italian).

EPPO computer code: SOOGI

Notes on taxonomy and nomenclature

Solidago gigantea belongs to the S. canadensis complex within the subgenus Triplinervae, having triple-nerved leaves. Whereas there is considerable taxonomic confusion within the genus Solidago, notably within this complex, S. gigantea appears to generally be one of the more clearly defined taxa. It is, however, a variable species, with five varieties described; var. gigantea, var. leiophylla, var. pitcheri, var. serotina, var. shinnersii, some having also been given subspecies or even species rank. Based on ploidy and leaf morphology, Beaudry (1963, 1974) separated S. shinnersii (2n=54, wide glabrous leaves) and S. serotina (2n=36, narrow glabrous leaves) from S. gigantea (2n=18, trichomes on midveins), also S. serotina forma huntingdonensis (2n=36, trichomes covering leaf underside). However, Melville and Morton (1982) found these morphologically inseparable due to overlapping variation, and were treated as a single species by Morton (1984), followed in this datasheet. Where introduced, var. leiophylla is described from Japan (Morita, 2002), and all cytotypes are found in Europe (Jakobs 2004) though the tetraploid form appears most common (Weber, 1997). The hybrid S. canadensis x S. gigantea has been reported from the USA and France (Wagenitz. 1979), and S. asteroides (Syn. Aster ptarmicoides) was occasionally observed to cross with various Solidago species, the hybrids formerly known as Solidaster (Semple et al., 1999).


S. gigantea is a 50-150 cm tall, erect rhizomatous perennial with annual aboveground shoots and persistent belowground rhizomes. One to several rhizomes emerge near the base of the dying shoots in autumn, thus leading to a branched rhizome system rooted mainly at the old and current shoot bases. Each rhizome produces a single aerial stem from the rhizome apex the following spring. Stems are branched and mainly glabrous, or weakly hairy in the inflorescence only, and at the basis of the shoots are glabrous. During growth, the tip of the shoot is nodding. Leaves are triple-nerved, glabrous or sometimes 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 golden yellow, female and fertile, disc florets are bisexual and fertile, capitula 3-5 mm long. Achenes are pubescent, 1-2 mm long, with a pappus of 1 mm long.

S. gigantea is distinguished from the closely related S. canadensis by having glabrous and glaucous stems. The shoots of S. canadensis are at least weakly pubescent. The calyxes of ligule flowers of S. gigantea are longer than the tubular flowers. S. gigantea has bright yellow flowers and the pappus is brownish-white, whereas the flowers of S. canadensis are somewhat lemon-yellow and the pappus silvery whitish.

S. gigantea is a herbaceous, seed and vegetatively propagated hemicryptophytic perennial.


S. gigantea is a rhizomatous hemicryptophyte with rhizome and seed propagation. Seeds of European plants do not show dormancy and do not need scarification or stratification (Voser-Huber, 1983). It is insect pollinated. Although seeds are essential for long-distance dispersal and the colonization of unoccupied sites, they are not important for the spatial extension of established populations. Intensive shoot growth starts in April and increases nearly linearly until the end of July when final height is achieved. Inflorescences are formed from June onwards. Peak flowering time is between mid-August and end of September, but flowering can continue until October in central Europe. Seeds are easily dispersed by wind, but in dry weather conditions only. Rhizome buds are formed during the summer and grow to rhizomes in autumn when rosettes may form in autumn, but normally rhizomes produce shoots in spring of the following year. Good achene germination was recorded (20-30%) during spring though germination was highly variable (Laszlo and Lajos, 2000). The most suitable conditions for germination are the surface of undisturbed soils and gaps in uncut grasslands.
Environmental requirements

S. gigantea is widespread in Europe and has shown itself well able to naturalize in temperate regions of the world, e.g. from the meridional to the subboreal belt in the eastern part of the European range (Meusel and Jäger, 1992). S. gigantea grows in a wide range of different soil conditions but is not shade tolerant (Ellenberg et al., 1992).

Climatic and vegetational categorization

S. gigantea is associated with areas with a cool to warm wet summer and a cool to cold winter (wet or dry). It is said to be hardy to zone 6 (-23 to –18°C), but this conflicts with its recorded distribution in the EPPO region, 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).

The habitat preferences of North American Solidago species are wide, with S. gigantea in its native range growing mainly in forest edges and roadsides, secondary old-fields and unmanaged areas that it readily colonizes. In central Europe, S. gigantea is widely naturalized and is found in uncut grasslands, wetland edges, riparian habitats, forest edges, and along roadsides (Hartmann and Konold, 1995), also riverbanks in central Europe, and it establishes well in disturbed sites and abandoned meadows. Where introduced in Hungary, S. gigantea has proved to be a more successful invader than S. canadensis, whereas the latter has a wider natural geographical distribution than S. gigantea in their native North America (Dancza and Botta-Dukát, 2003).


In its native range, S. gigantea can occur in any crop; however, it is not a serious weed in annual crops since it is easily controlled by tilling. However, it invades poorly managed pasture and can be a considerable weed in forest nurseries and in perennial gardens and crops. Where introduced, S. gigantea is a principle weed in managed forests, and a serious weed in wetlands, on riverbanks/canalsides, on rail/roadsides, wastelands, urban areas and forest edges.


Seeds are produced in very large numbers and long-distance dispersal is by wind, aided in dry conditions. Short-distance dispersal is possible by rhizomes through infested soil. 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. Accidental introduction is possible through human activity, such as collecting fruited shoots as an ornament and then disposing of them on rubbish heaps. S. gigantea 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. gigantea is cultivated as an ornamental plant in Europe. S. gigantea-dominated areas are suitable for honey production (Stefanic et al. 2003), and it is also used as a medicinal plant.


EPPO region: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal (mainland, Azores), Romania, Russia (Northern Russia, Central Europe, Southern Europe, Eastern Siberia), Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Asia: Japan (Hokkaido), Russia (Eastern Siberia).

North America: Canada (widespread), USA (continental, all states).

S. gigantea is native to the USA and Canada between 30°N and 55°N. It was introduced into Europe as an ornamental plant in the mid 1700s, with naturalized populations first observed in the mid 1800s (Wagenitz, 1979). Continuous spread was noted between 1850 and 1950, by which time most of the present range was occupied (Weber, 1998).


Economic impact

In infested areas, litter accumulation makes field restoration difficult, and S. gigantea is an alternative host of insect vectors of plant pathogens.

Impact on biodiversity

Established S. gigantea outcompetes native species with a resulting decrease in biodiversity in dominated communities, with native plant and animal species threatened, including common character species.

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


S. gigantea has spread in a number of European countries after introduction as an ornamental plant from its native North America. It is an undesirable invader on account of its large rhizomes and vigorous growth leading to gross changes in the native vegetation and fauna. S. gigantea is not a serious weed in annual crops since it is easily controlled by tilling, however, it invades poorly managed pasture and can be a considerable weed in forest nurseries and in perennial gardens and crops. It continues to be available from commercial nurseries and botanical gardens and further deliberate introductions are likely.


(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

S. gigantea is easily controlled in cultivated land by tilling. In grasslands, effective control is possible by mowing once a year and mulching, or mowing twice a year without mulching, over a period of three years (Hartmann and Konold, 1995). Continuous mowing or grazing is required every year to prevent establishment of Solidago species or to restore infested grasslands.

Chemical control

Herbicides are effective on young plants but ineffective during the vegetative period. Glyphosate, 2,4-D and several other contact herbicides have proved suitable for the control of Solidago species.

Biological control

Eight insects were considered as biocontrol agents of Solidago spp. by Fontes et al. (1994), though none have been released.

Regulatory status

In Switzerland, this species 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).

Beaudry JR, 1963. Studies on Solidago L. 6. Additional chromosome numbers of taxa of the genus Solidago. Canadian Journal of Genetics and Cytology 5:150-154.
Beaudry JR, 1974. Solidago shinnersii Beaudry stat. et comb. nove., une nouvelle espèce du complexe du S. gigantea. Naturaliste Canadienne 101:931-932.
CPS-SKEW, 2003. The Swiss Commission for Wild Plant Conservation CPS/SKEW and the Swiss Commission for Cultivated Plant Conservation. http://www.cps-skew.ch/english/info_invasive_plants.htm.
Dancza I, Botta-Dukát Z, 2003. Historical and recent data on the distribution of North American Solidago species (S. gigantea, S. canadensis) in Hungary. In: Zajac A, Zajac M, Zemanek B, eds. Phytogeographical Problems of Synathropic Plants. Institute of Botany, Jagiellonian University, 117-123.
Ellenberg H, Weber HE, Düll R, Wirth V, Werner W, Paulissen D, 1992. Zeigerwerte von Pflanzen in Mitteleuropa. Scripta Geobot., 18:1-258.
Fontes EMG, Habeck DH, Slansky FJr, 1994. Phytophagous insects associated with goldenrods (Solidago spp.) in Gainesville, Florida. Florida Entomologist, 77(2):209-221.
Hartmann E, Konold W,1995. Späte und Kanadische Goldrute (Solidago gigantea et canadensis): Ursachen und Problematik ihrer Ausbreitung sowie Möglichkeiten ihrer Zurückdrängung. In: Böcker R., Konold W, Schmid-Fischer S. eds. Gebietsfremde Arten. Ecomed, Landsberg, 93-104.
Laszlo GS, Lajos B, 2000. A few characteristics of the life strategy of Solidago gigantea Ait. (germination ability of achene, fructans of the rhizome). Acta Agronomica Ovariensis 42(1):51-59.
Meusel H, Jäger EJ, 1992. Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora, Band III. Jena and Stuttgart, Germany: New York, USA: Gustav Fischer Verlag.
Morita H, 2002. Handbook of Arable Weeds of Japan. Tokyo, Japan: Kumiai Chemical Industry Co., Ltd.
Morton GH, 1984. A practical treatment of the Solidago gigantea complex. Canadian Journal of Botany, 62(6):1279-1282.
Semple JC, Ringius GS, Zhang JJ, 1999. The goldenrods of Ontario: Solidago L., and Euthamia Nutt. University of Waterloo Biological Series 39.
Stefanic E, Puskadija Z, Stefanic I, Bubalo D, 2003. Goldenrod: a valuable plant for beekeeping in north-eastern Croatia. Bee World 84, 86-90.
Voser-Huber ML, 1983. Studien an eingebürgerten Arten der Gattung Solidago L. Dissertationes Botanicae 68:1-97.
Wagenitz, G., 1979. Solidago L. In: Hegi, G. ed. Illustrierte Flora von Mitteleuropa. Carl Hanser Verlag, München, 16-29.
Weber E, 1997. Phenotypic variation of the introduced perennial Solidago gigantea in Europe. Nordic Journal of Botany, 17(6):631-638.
Weber E, 1998. The dynamics of plant invasions: a case study of three exotic goldenrod species (Solidago L.) in Europe. Journal of Biogeography, 25(1):147-154.

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