The blossoming of goldenrod every August always brings to mind the impending start of another school year, and the first of the annual agricultural fairs. Because it blooms at the same time as ragweed, many people with allergies believe that they are caused by goldenrod, but this has been found not to be true. So even those with allergies can take advantage of this abundant, easy to collect dye source. When made in a brass kettle, goldenrod produces a vivid yellow, often bordering upon chartreuse. I’ve found it to be one of the more colorfast natural dyes.
Cut about a grocery bag full of the flowers. Simmer in about a gallon of water for about 1/2 hour, then remove the plant material. Submerge wet, alum mordanted wool into the bath and simmer in brass container for another 1/2 hour or so. Allow to cool, then remove from the dye bath, rinse in tepid water, and allow to air dry.
Goldenrod is a North American native. During the War for Independence, colonist made a tea from the blossoms, and Native Americans used it in a steam bath to relieve pain. It is also said to be good for obstructions kidney stones. When bruised, the plant has a spicy smell like anise and sassafras.
There is an old legend that relates goldenrods to asters. Two young girls talks about what they would like to do when they grew up. One, who had golden hair, said she wanted to do something that would make people happy. The other, with blue eyes, said that she wanted to be with her golden-haired friend. The two girls met and told a wise old lady of their dreams. The old lady gave the girls some magic corn cake. After eating the cake, the girls disappeared. The next day, two new kinds of flowers appeared where the girls had walked: Asters and Goldenrods.