Plant Species of the South Kaibab Trail:
Missouri goldenrod, Solidago missouriensis

See Plant Guide to South Kaibab Trail for an introduction to this page, especially the Introduction To These Species Pages.


Identification status: High confidence.

This is the first time we had ever seen this species outside of a florist's bouquet.

We were very surprised to see this clump on our way back up from Cedar Ridge, for two reasons. First, we hadn't seen it on the way down, since the plant is at the base of a section of trail that had been built up with perhaps 5 feet or so of rocks, and hidden from our view on the way down.

Second, this was the most unlikely Solidago spot we'd ever seen, a very dry location. All of the Solidagos we've seen in southern California are found in moist spots. However, this location is a spot where the mules love to urinate, so the scent of ammonia was strong in the air, and we speculated that the moisture percolated through the stacked rocks and nourished this plant. (;-)

But it turns out this species doesn't mind being in such locations. The Flora of North America treatment says it lives in Open sandy and rocky soils, clay soils, prairies, grasslands, pastures, open conifer forests in foothills and proximal elevations of mountains, sandstone ledges, limestone glades, disturbed soils, roadsides.

For the determination, Anne kindly climbed down the rock wall and nabbed a leaf, since I knew that two of our Solidagos in southern California were discriminated by the presence of hairs on the leaf. But I was dismayed when it turned out to be the hairs on the stem that mattered here, at least in the key. (:-) Fortunately, my pictures seem to indicate that the stem is glabrous, and the leaf hairs generally follow the stem hairs. Also, it turns out the number of veins on the leaf matters here as well, so the leaf was very useful.

I could not get the id using the McDougall key directly:

152  Leaves very numerous, the upper ones not much smaller than the lower ones ...S. altissima
152' Leaves not very numerous, the upper ones much smaller than the lower ones.  (153)

153  Stems smooth of nearly so ...S. missouriensis
153' Stems densely short-hairy ...(154)

154  Bracts of involucre oblong or ovate, rounded at the tip;
     branches of panicle upright, not 1-sided ... S. nana
154' Bracts of involucre linear to lanceolate, pointed at the tip;
     branches of panicle curved and usually 1-sided ... S. sparsiflora

My trouble started at the first couplet above. The leaves seemed quite numerous to me, and were roughly the same size all the way up the stem. However, the branch leaves were abruptly much smaller than the main stem leaves.

The McDougall description of S. altissima says it has a hairy stem and its leaves are sharply toothed, so that id was ruled out. (Although the Flora of North America description of S. altissima says its leaves can be entire, as well, it still says the stems are usually short-hairy throughout.)

I don't have a close-up view of the stem to know for sure whether the stems are hairy or not, but they do look glabrous in my pictures, noticeably different from the stems of S. velutina, which would make the determination S. missouriensis. S. velutina (=S. sparsiflora in McDougall) is a very similar species, but has hairy stems and hairy leaves. Compare the picture of the stems below to this picture of S. velutina.

S. nana has white-hairy stems and leaves, so is definitely ruled out.

From a SEINet search on 5 September 2008, there are only 3 vouchers of this species from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, and none of them are from anywhere nearby. They are from: Ledges Camp, Colorado River, Mile 151.5R; Mouth Of Nankoweap Creek, Rm 52.1R; and Thompson Canyon, North Rim. The 1987 Grand Canyon Flora adds only a few locations: seep at base of Bright Angel Shale Mile 126L, and seep in Tapeats ledges along river below Deer Creek Falls, Mile 136R. Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

S. velutina has 49 vouchers from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, and is vouchered nearby, from Long Jim Canyon; Grandview; and near El Tovar.

Given this disparity in vouchers, it clearly is important to verify the absence of hairs on the stems on our next visit from an up close and personal observation. From the Flora of North America treatments, the only other major differences are the lengths of the ligules, disk corollas, achenes and pappus, which I'll check as well.

First occurrence on South Kaibab Trail: mile 0.84, elevation ~6500 feet (~1980 m).

Number of plants along Trail: Only this single clump of plants was found at this single location in August 2008.


From 23 August 2008, mile 0.84:

View of west side of trail on way up; the Solidago is at the bottom left. Note the unusual rock in the middle of this picture, which appears to have a white deposit on half of it. The white deposit may have resulted from fluids circulating in a crack in the rock, and may either have always been absent on the other part of the rock, or they may have worn off of it after the rock separated from the cliff above.

View looking straight down the side of the trail. Note the stacked rocks forming the support of the trail here.

Note the big leaves up to the inflorescence, and the abruptly-smaller leaves in the branches:

The stems appear glabrous in the picture below. Compare this picture to this picture of S. velutina, showing the white hairs on its stems.

Note the many side branches, producing the beautiful inflorescence for which this species is known.

Top of the leaf:

Bottom of the leaf. Note the fairly clear 3 veins from base on this side of the leaf.


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Copyright © 2008 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 5 September 2008