Thomas Edison knew the value of goldenrod

It’s autumn and nature is taking on some golden hues. It’s also the time when ladybugs come home — rather, in the home.


The large yellow flowering plants along roadsides and in meadows are probably goldenrod, a member of the aster family. There are nearly 100 species of goldenrod in its native range, which extends from Central America through Canada. Goldenrod has also been introduced throughout Europe and has become naturalized there.

Goldenrod is an important plant for wildlife.

Photo by Mike Kay, FCFCDB

It is an important plant for wildlife. Many butterflies, moths and birds eat the plant or enjoy the nectar. Goldenrod extracts are used in anti-inflammatory medicines and in a tonic for kidney ailments.

Goldenrod contains a natural rubber compound, and the great inventor Thomas Edison propagated this plant to maximize rubber production. Edison produced a variety that grew to a height of 15 feet and contained 12 percent rubber. His goldenrod-derived rubber was said to be very durable and elastic. Through his friendships with Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, some of the early Model-T Fords had tires made of goldenrod rubber.


The orange striped oakworm is now active. The larvae of this moth prefer oak trees, particularly red and pin oak. They tend to congregate in large masses at the end of the branches, devouring most of the nearby leaves, except for the veins. Despite this sinister appearance, the feeding activity lasts only a couple of weeks and they rarely defoliate a tree.

Orange striped oakworm

Photo from by Greg Dwyer

Damaged tree in Greenbrier SP

Photo by Mike Kay, FCFCDB

Oak trees are nearing their dormant period, so the health of the tree is normally not impaired. An exception would be a young newly-planted tree that, if completely defoliated, could suffer some loss of vigor. If you find this insect on a recently planted tree you should consider some sort of control.

After feeding for a few weeks, the oakworm drops from the tree and burrows into the ground. The oakworm pupates during the winter and emerges in the spring as an adult moth. The females deposit their eggs on the underside of oak branches before expiring, and the eggs hatch in September.


Many residents find ladybugs infiltrating cracks around doors and windows in the fall. Small, brightly-colored insects of the beetle family Coccinellidae, they are natural enemies of aphids and other insect garden pests. A ladybug can eat as many as 5,000 aphids during its lifetime. Most have an annual lifecycle and overwinter in the adult stage, liking the shelter of the warmer cracks around homes.

Many varieties of ladybugs exist in this area. Usually round or oval in shape, the coloring is typically bright orange, yellow or red with black spots. The bright coloring is a defense mechanism, called aposematism, that warns other creatures not to eat them, as they exude a fluid with a strong disagreeable odor and taste.


The fall color season is here again with some vibrant hues beginning to mix with the various shades of green of summer. Locally, fall colors begin by mid-September, are normally at their peak by the third week of October and are all but gone by November.

Some trees that begin their change of color “early,” from mid-September through mid-October, include dogwoods, red; ash, multicolored; black gum, red; hickory, yellow; birch, yellow; red maple, red; tulip poplar, yellow; and a number of vines like Virginia creeper and poison ivy, red.

Some trees that change later in the season are oaks, red and yellow; beech, yellow; sassafras, multicolored; sumac, red; sugar maple, yellow; and black haw, orange.

The autumn colors are triggered by a variety of factors, including elevation, amount of daylight, temperatures, position of the tree to the sun and other factors. Typically, the higher elevations have the earliest color change. So, if you can, begin your color quest in the Catoctins and move down toward the Monocacy later in the season to maximize your sightseeing in Frederick County.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Note for 10/12/2008