Goldenrod is an herbaceous perennial wildflower native to North America; it grows all across the United States, Canada, and parts of Mexico. It belongs to the Solidago genus, which comprises over 100 species and several cultivars.
Because there are so many goldenrod species, it’s difficult to provide specific identifying characteristics, as goldenrod species can differ in leaf shape and size, leaf and stem texture (smooth or rough), habitat, and overall growth pattern.
Goldenrod plants can look superficially similar to many species in the Senecio species, which are commonly known as groundsel, ragwort, life root, or staggerweed (note that some of these plants have been reclassified into different genera than Senecio).
There’s a common misconception that goldenrod pollen causes allergic reactions. However, this isn’t the case, as the actual culprit is ragweed pollen (Ambrosia spp.). Both plants grow in similar habitats (meadows, open fields, roadsides, ditches) and bloom at the same time.