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Montana Field Guides

Three-nerved Goldenrod - Solidago velutina
Other Names:  Solidago sparsiflora

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5?
State Rank: SH
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Threat Score: Unknown

Agency Status


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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Few-flowered goldenrod is known in Montana from 1 specimen collection from the Stillwater River Valley, which lacks precise locality data. Other reports of this species from the state are based on mis-identified specimens. Additional data are needed.
General Description
Few-flowered Goldenrod is an herbaceous perennial with ascending stems that are 3-6 dm high and arising from a branched rootcrown. The alternate, narrowly lance-shaped leaves have indistinct petioles and entire to shallowly toothed margins. The mid-stem leaves are 4-10 cm long, and are the largest of the leaves; they have 3 distinct main nerves. The foliage is grayish short-hairy. Short-stalked flower heads are borne on a few 1-sided spikes in a terminal, open, nodding inflorescence. The heads are 4-6 mm high and have 3-4 series of narrow, pointed involucral bracts, ca. 8 yellow rays that are 3-4 mm long, and ca. 8 yellow disk flowers. The achene has a pappus at its summit.

Our plants are subspecies sparsiflora (A.Gray) Semple.

Flowering occurs in August.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Among our plains goldenrods with a similar growth form, well-developed stem leaves, and basal leaves lacking or small, few-flowered goldenrod is distinguished by having leaves over 1 cm wide, stems pubescent, at least below the inflorescence, and involucral bracts that are mostly broadest at the base and sharp-tipped. In addition, S. canadensis has smaller (1-4 mm) and more numerous ray flowers.

Range Comments
Valleys of Stillwater County. OR to MT south to CA, AZ, NM, TX and Mexico (Lesica et al. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. BRIT Press. Fort Worth, TX).

Throughout its range, the species is found on sandy, well-drained soils of unglaciated broken and rolling plains in a variety of semi-open settings, including open woods, woodland margins and rocky slopes (Great Plains Flora Assoc. 1986). Montana records have come from sagebrush habitat and an open area near a cultivated field possibly at the head of a woody draw.

Solidagos are wind-pollinated and have seeds that disperse by wind. Few-flowered goldenrod is one of many that reproduce vegetatively by rhizomes, forming clonal clumps. The dry, continental climate in which this species grows is moderated at least in part by tree cover and/or moisture-accumulating fractures in sandstone bedrock (Heidel 1994). Similar species of goldenrod have very deep taproots. Galls that reduce vigor but do not kill plants are very common in goldenrods, and some are species-specific.

The plant is highly palatable and may be subject to herbivory by mule and white-tailed deer (Austin and Urness 1986).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Three-nerved Goldenrod — Solidago velutina.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from