The Difference Between Ragweed and Goldenrod, and What It Means for Your Allergies

The Difference Between Ragweed and Goldenrod, and What It Means for Your Allergies
Photo: Ivanka Kunianska, Shutterstock

There has been a lot of talk about the healing power of nature — between forest bathing, fresh air, and all kinds of “wellness” retreats — but people with hay fever may have a slightly different take on the great outdoors. Namely: It can be difficult to really appreciate nature when so much of it makes your eyes water (and not because you’re so moved by its beauty).

It’s a good time to take a look at two plants that get a lot of the blame when it comes to causing hay fever symptoms: Ragweed and goldenrod. But what’s the difference between the two, and which one are you more likely to be allergic to? Here’s what to know.

What’s the difference between ragweed and goldenrod?

First, let’s start with what these two plants have in common. Both ragweed and goldenrod grow in the same areas, are roughly the same size, are part of the Asteraceae family, and bloom between July and October, according to an article by Nicole Shein on BobVila.com.

And now, for the differences:

Ragweed

  • Annual plant
  • Invasive species
  • Small, green blooms
  • Pollinated by the wind
  • Fern-like leaflets 6 inches by 4 inches in size

Goldenrod

  • Perennial plant
  • Noninvasive species
  • Big yellow flowers
  • Pollinated by animals
  • Can grow up to 1.22 m high

Am I allergic to ragweed or goldenrod?

Ultimately, you’re far more likely to be allergic to ragweed than goldenrod (although technically, it’s possible that goldenrod is an allergen for some). “That’s because it’s pollinated by bees and butterflies; its large particles of pollen rarely become airborne at all, let alone travel any distance from the plant,” Shein writes.

Approximately 15% of Americans are allergic to ragweed, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

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