During the past few decades, goldenrod has become recognized as being much more than a weed. Its ascendancy to the list of valuable wildlife plants is much deserved. Gardeners and wildlife enthusiasts alike are becoming increasingly aware that the goldenrod is a source of nectar and/or pollen for a variety of native pollinators including native bees, moths, and butterflies. In addition, the insects found on goldenrod are an important source of food for songbirds and others. However, the ubiquitous plant’s value to wildlife well beyond its blooming season remains largely unappreciated.
In truth, if you allow goldenrod plants to remain standing throughout the winter, they will provide cover for songbirds, rabbits, and small mammals. In addition, goldenrod seeds are eaten by a number of birds and small mammals. The American goldfinch is particularly fond of goldenrod seeds. Among the other birds that dine on the tiny seeds are swamp sparrows, eastern towhees, pine siskins, and dark-eyed juncos. If you live in the mountains, don’t be surprised to see ruffed grouse eating goldenrod seeds on cold winter day.