Early goldenrod (Solidago gigantea): Sand Dune Friend or Foe?

Dynamic Dunescapes

Swansea university year in industry placement student Chloe Mills shares her experience of undertaking fieldwork to investigate the influence of unmanaged early goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) on native biodiversity on the sand dunes of Crymlyn Burrows, South Wales

What is early goldenrod?

Early goldenrod, Solidago gigantea, is a tall plant with small yellow flowers and hairless strap-shaped leaves. It reproduces both sexually and asexually using rhizomes. Early goldenrod can be a problematic invasive species in Europe as it spreads quickly in both wet and dry habitats. The early goldenrod found on Crymlyn Burrows has never been managed or studied, so I conducted this study to look at how it impacts surrounding plants and invertebrates.

Early goldenrod

What were my findings?

Firstly, native plant species were negatively impacted by goldenrod presence. We were not able to specifically identify the drivers which cause this, and this would require further studies. This may be due to goldenrod chemically altering the soil to prevent other species growing. However, I found climbing and flying invertebrates were positively impacted by goldenrod. This is likely due to the attractive yellow flowers attracting pollinators, thus there is prey available for the climbing invertebrates which live in the dry stalks of early goldenrod. However, as a result, over time, native plant populations are likely to me negatively impacted by early goldrenrod presence and decrease as pollinators are taken away from native plants by the early goldenrod, hindering native plant reproduction. Finally, ground-dwelling invertebrates were unaffected by early goldenrod presence, however, this may be site specific to Crymlyn Burrows as other studies usually find they are negatively impacted by goldenrod.

A white quadrat sits on green and yellow vegetation
Quadrat surveying

What may this mean for how early goldenrod is managed at Crymlyn Burrows?

Early goldenrod is sensitive to flooding, although this can’t be used as a management tool on Crymlyn due to the placement of the goldenrod. As early goldenrod positively impacts some invertebrates, total eradication of the early goldenrod on Crymlyn Burrows should be avoided at this time.

Take home message

The results from this study will hopefully advise future management of early goldenrod on Crymlyn Burrows. I also hope it will support other sand dune site managers who have uncontrolled early goldenrod on their sites.

A small blue butterfly feeds on a small bright yellow flower
Early goldenrod and common blue butterfly
A brown bee feeds on a small yellow flower
Common carder bee on goldenrod

Watch Chloe's presentation on her project and findings

A smiling student stands in waders in water

About the Author

Chloe Mills
Swansea University

I’m studying a BSc in Biology at Swansea University and currently doing a year in industry at Crymlyn Burrows. I had a brilliant opportunity to apply for a bursary with Dynamic Dunescapes at Crymlyn Burrows and look at how unmanaged early goldenrod (Solidago gigantea) impacted native plants and invertebrates at Crymlyn Burrows. This project has helped me improve my fieldwork and scientific communication skills and I’ve gained knowledge on invasive plants.