Solidago mollis (Velvety Goldenrod)

Plant Info
Also known as: Soft Goldenrod, Ashy Goldenrod
Family:Asteraceae (Aster)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:sun; dry to average moisture; prairie, grassy slopes, bluffs, open woods
Bloom season:July - October
Plant height:6 to 24 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 7+petals Cluster type: panicle

[photo of flowers] Branching cluster at the top of the stem, compact and cylindric to pyramidal to club-shaped, branches spreading to ascending to nearly erect, sometimes arching, with 50 to 300 flowerheads and sometimes the whole cluster nodding to one side. The yellow flowers are about ¼ inch across with 6 to 10 petals (ray flowers) around a yellow center disc with 3 to 8 disc flowers.

[photo of phyllaries] Surrounding the base of the flower are 3 or 4 layers of narrow, lance-oblong, hairless yellowish to greenish bracts (phyllaries), the entire set of bracts (involucre) 3.5 to 6 mm (to ¼ inch) long. Flower stalks are hairy, usually shorter than the involucre and all arranged on one side of the branch (secund), erect to ascending or curving upward.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of mid-stem leaves] There are both basal leaves and leaves alternating up the stem. Leaves are relatively thick and firm, gray-green from dense hairs, velvety to slightly rough, toothless or shallowly toothed sometimes just on the tip half, rounded to blunt at the tip. Basal and the lowest stem leaves are 1¾ to 4 inches long, 3/8 to 1½ inches wide, tapering to a winged stalk half or more as long as the blade. Basal and lower stem leaves typically wither away by flowering time. Mid-stem leaves are up to 2½ inches long and ¾ inch wide, usually become smaller as they ascend the stem (often much smaller), egg-shaped to oval-elliptic, stalkless or nearly so and not clasping the stem.

[photo of stem] Stems are erect to ascending, stout, velvety from short hairs, sometimes hairless or nearly so at the base, and single or in loose clusters from creeping rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: seed with plume

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a dry seed (achene) with a tuft of light brown hairs (pappus) 2 to 3 mm long attached at the tip to carry it off in the wind.


Velvety (or Soft) Goldenrod is rare in Minnesota, just reaching the easternmost edge of its range in our westernmost counties. While its greater range falls entirely within the drier and shorter to mixed grass portions of the Great Plains, itself is not a dry prairie species but inhabits moister margins between dry and mesic soils. In Minnesota they are found on heavier clay soils or loess (fine-grained clay-silt) over gravel subsoils often on bluffs, ridges and slopes. According to the DNR, while these areas are marginal for agricultural purposes, they are often used for pasture, and the glacial till beneath them is increasingly mined for road gravel. Solidago mollis was listed as a Special Concern species in 1984 due to its limited geographic range, small population sizes, and the threats to its habitat.

The overall hairiness and shape of upper leaves may resemble other, more common Goldenrod species in Minnesota. Broader, more oval-elliptic leaves may resemble Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida), which has lower and basal leaves usually persisting through flowering, stalkless and clasping stem leaves, flower clusters that are more flat-topped or convex, and larger flowers, with 14 to 35 disc flowers and the involucre 6 to 8 mm (¼ to 1/3 inch) long. When S. mollis upper leaves are more narrowly elliptic it may vaguely resemble Tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima), which has a looser, less compact flower cluster, leaves with a longer taper to sharply pointed tip and rough textured on the upper surface. It is actually most closely related to Gray Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis), which has persistent lower stem and basal leaves, proportionately longer and narrower upper stem leaves, is frequently leaning with a nodding flower cluster, and lacks rhizomes (underground stems from which new shoots arise) but has a caudex (enlarged underground stem base from which new shoots arise).

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More photos

Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Big Stone County and in North Dakota.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Jeffrey L Straub - Rush Lk WMA, Mahnomen Cty
on: 2021-09-23 21:26:04

I think we're combining lots of it, harvesting prairie for DNR. Any tips for I.D? It's as short as Nemoralis but cone shaped top, fairly colonial.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-24 08:20:03

Jeffrey, did you check the Notes section?

Posted by: Jeffrey L Straub - Rush Lk WMA, Mahnomen Cty
on: 2021-09-24 14:58:24

I did, and took a walk at rush lk again. This form is quite common, forming pure stands in the dry/wet interface. leaves are 3 ribbed, alternate, smaller as they ascend and toothed on the top half. Mainly wondering about the range & Prevalence? This prairie is unbroken from the '39 photo forward. Thanks

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-09-25 08:51:00

Jeffrey, the range maps reflect what is currently known according to herbarium records and the DNR's biological surveys. If it is indeed S. mollis, it would be a new county record and you should tell the DNR about it. They should be able to confirm the ID.

Posted by: Jeffrey L Straub - Rush Lk WMA, Mahnomen Cty
on: 2021-09-25 19:59:55

Will do. That's definitely what it is. It's not rare - native prairies are rare. I'll let them know Monday. Thanks.

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