Goldenrods are some of the most abundant plants on the prairies. Some species, like Rigid Goldenrod, are common while others, like Riddell’s Goldenrod, are rare in Canada. Goldenrods are perennial, which means that each plant lives for many years. They typically flower in summer and fall, attracting many species of pollinators. Goldenrod plants are the producers in a prairie ecosystem because they make their own food.
Goldenrods are some of the most abundant plants on the prairies. Some species, like Rigid Goldenrod, are common while others, like Riddell’s Goldenrod, are rare in Canada. Goldenrods are perennial, which means that each plant lives for many years. They typically flower in summer and fall, attracting many species of pollinators. Goldenrod plants are the producers in a prairie ecosystem because they make their own food.

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A photograph of a Canada Goldenrod plant.

Canada Goldenrod

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Riddell’s Goldenrod plant being visited by a flower fly and an ambush bug.

Riddell's Goldenrod, flower fly and ambush bug.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Sarah Semmler. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Rigid Goldenrod plant.

Rigid Goldenrod

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Showy Goldenrod plant.

Showy Goldenrod

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A labelled drawing showing the parts of a Rigid Goldenrod plant.

Like all plants, goldenrods have four main parts: roots to obtain water and nutrients, leaves to capture sunlight, stems to transport water and sugar, and flowers to enable the plant to reproduce itself. Each flower has sepals and petals to attract insects, stamens to produce pollen, and pistils which contain eggs.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A worksheet illustrating the parts of a Rigid Goldenrod that can by filled in using the word list.

Make copies of this diagram and distribute them to the students. Have them label the parts of a Rigid Goldenrod using the word list.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


An illustration of the stages in a Rigid Goldenrod life cycle.

Goldenrod seeds germinate in the spring and quickly grow into small plants called seedlings. By late summer the fully grown plant will begin producing flowers. If an insect brings pollen from another flower, the eggs will be fertilized. The fertilized eggs ripen into seeds, which are then dispersed by the wind.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet la France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A worksheet illustrating the life cycle stages of the Rigid Goldenrod that can by filled in using the associated word list.

Make copies of this worksheet and distribute them to the students. Label the worksheet as a class, noting the six main life stages: germination, growth, pollination, fertilization, ripening and dispersal. Discuss what would happen to the plant if there were no pollinators.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Janet La France

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


The small flowers of goldenrods provide nectar and pollen to a wide range of insects. Bees, beetles, butterflies and flies all visit goldenrod plants on the prairies. Pollinators are herbivores because they eat food produced by plants.
The small flowers of goldenrods provide nectar and pollen to a wide range of insects. Bees, beetles, butterflies and flies all visit goldenrod plants on the prairies. Pollinators are herbivores because they eat food produced by plants.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of a bumblebee visiting a Showy Goldenrod.

A bumblebee on a Showy Goldenrod.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Red-blue Checkered Beetle on Common Yarrow.

A Red-blue Checkered Beetle on Common Yarrow.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Sarah Semmler. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a Northern Pearl Crescent butterfly on a Black-eyed Susan.

Northern Pearl Crescent butterfly on Black-eyed Susan.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Sarah Semmler. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a flower fly on Golden Alexander.

Flower fly on Golden Alexander.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Since so many insects visit flowers, some predators have evolved to take advantage of this abundant food supply. Insects like ambush bugs and arachnids like goldenrod spiders hide on flowers and wait for pollinators to show up. Once an unsuspecting insect lands on the flower, the predator quickly grabs the prey. At this point, things get a little gruesome. The predators pierce the preys’ body with their mouthparts and inject venom that both paralyzes and partially digests it. When the prey is immobilized, the predator can suck out the liquefied remains of the insect at its leisure, leaving only an empty exoskeleton behind. Pollinator predators are carnivores because they eat other animals.
Since so many insects visit flowers, some predators have evolved to take advantage of this abundant food supply. Insects like ambush bugs and arachnids like goldenrod spiders hide on flowers and wait for pollinators to show up. Once an unsuspecting insect lands on the flower, the predator quickly grabs the prey. At this point, things get a little gruesome. The predators pierce the preys’ body with their mouthparts and inject venom that both paralyzes and partially digests it. When the prey is immobilized, the predator can suck out the liquefied remains of the insect at its leisure, leaving only an empty exoskeleton behind. Pollinator predators are carnivores because they eat other animals.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of an ambush bug on a Rigid Goldenrod plant.

Ambush bug on Rigid Goldenrod.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A photograph of a crab spider and a young ambush bug on a Black-eyed Susan.

Ambush bug and crab spider on Black-eyed Susan. Some species can change their colour to match that of the flower they are hunting on.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Food webs, or webs of life, contain many different kinds of plants and animals in one ecosystem or community. Food webs consist of producers (plants), herbivores (pollinators), and carnivores (predators). There are some plants, like goldenrods, that many different animals either live or feed on, so the plant itself can support a web of life!

Many different insects depend on goldenrods to live. Some insects use it as a perch, some feast on its nectar and pollen, and others make it their home and blend in so well you hardly even know they are there. Goldenrods are hearty plants that can grow almost anywhere. Look for it in your school yard or patch of weeds in your neighbourhood, and you just might find a whole community making a goldenrod its home.

Food webs, or webs of life, contain many different kinds of plants and animals in one ecosystem or community. Food webs consist of producers (plants), herbivores (pollinators), and carnivores (predators). There are some plants, like goldenrods, that many different animals either live or feed on, so the plant itself can support a web of life!

Many different insects depend on goldenrods to live. Some insects use it as a perch, some feast on its nectar and pollen, and others make it their home and blend in so well you hardly even know they are there. Goldenrods are hearty plants that can grow almost anywhere. Look for it in your school yard or patch of weeds in your neighbourhood, and you just might find a whole community making a goldenrod its home.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Description:
The information we have about plants and habitats comes from botanists, entomologists, ecologists, biologists and other scientists making careful observations in nature and taking notes, photos and drawings to record what they see. People have been studying nature and learning about plants and animals this way for a long, long time.

Method:

Preparing for the Safari:

Watch the video, "Prairie Pollination", ask students what other animals might be connected to Goldenrod plants.  Another optional activity is to read the class On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks and a Few More Icks, by Anthony D. Fredericks, Illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio, Dawn Publications, Nevada City, CA, 2006, ISBN: 1-58469-087-9.  Show the students the illustrations of prairie goldenrods made by the Canadian scientist Norman Criddle.

Goldenrod  Safari:
1. Locate an appropriate location for a field trip. Many urban areas contain natural environment parks where prairie plants can be observed. You can even find prairie plants in schoolyards, vacant lots, or prairie gardens. See the Resources section of the Prairie Pollin Read More

Description:
The information we have about plants and habitats comes from botanists, entomologists, ecologists, biologists and other scientists making careful observations in nature and taking notes, photos and drawings to record what they see. People have been studying nature and learning about plants and animals this way for a long, long time.

Method:

Preparing for the Safari:

Watch the video, "Prairie Pollination", ask students what other animals might be connected to Goldenrod plants.  Another optional activity is to read the class On One Flower: Butterflies, Ticks and a Few More Icks, by Anthony D. Fredericks, Illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio, Dawn Publications, Nevada City, CA, 2006, ISBN: 1-58469-087-9.  Show the students the illustrations of prairie goldenrods made by the Canadian scientist Norman Criddle.

Goldenrod  Safari:
1. Locate an appropriate location for a field trip. Many urban areas contain natural environment parks where prairie plants can be observed. You can even find prairie plants in schoolyards, vacant lots, or prairie gardens. See the Resources section of the Prairie Pollination website for possible sites to visit or use the PlantSpotting App to locate a local patch of goldenrod near you.
2. Have each student bring a note book and pencil so they can write or draw the organisms they observe.
3. Have each student sit quietly and observe a patch of goldenrod flowers. Students may see insects such as bees and flies visiting the plants. If they look more closely, they may see insects that live on the flower, such as aphids, ambush bugs and crab spiders.
4. You may choose to have each student photograph their plant and any pollinators they may see. They can add their date and sighting on the Plant Spotting App. Students should also record any activity they see in their observation journals, sketch their plant and share their observations with the class after the activity.
5. In the classroom, collect the data from the field observations. On a blackboard, whiteboard or flip chart, write down the different kinds of insects the class saw. What was the experience of observation like for them? What worked well for making observations? What were the challenges? 

Summation:

1. Ask the students to think about other kinds of animals and plants that are linked to the goldenrod and its insect visitors. For example, what kinds of animals eat insects?
2. As a class discuss what can be done to help prairie plants like goldenrods. Consider in particular things that they can do personally to help them. See the Pollinator Conservation Challenge section of the Prairie Pollination website to get more ideas regarding what can be done to help conserve prairie plants.


© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A video about insect pollination on the prairies.

An introductory video on prairie pollination.

The Manitoba Museum – Prairie Pollination

Few people notice insects unless they are getting bitten by one. But the activities of many of these little animals are actually very important to people. Scientists estimate that one in every three bites of food depends on a pollinator. Worldwide about 80% of all flowering plants need animal pollinators. Here in the Canadian prairies bees, flies, butterflies, moths and beetles are the most common pollinators. These insects carry hundreds of pollen grains from flower to flower every day as they search for food. Each tiny pollen grain contains the genetic information to create a new plant. This process ensures the survival of the next generation of plants. Without pollinators most of the world’s plants, including many crop plants, would go extinct.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Prairie Provinces, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A watercolour painting of Canada Goldenrod by Norman Criddle.

Painting of Canada Goldenrod by Norman Criddle, TMM H9-24-328.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Norman Criddle, Photo: Rebecca Bilsky

TMM H9-24-328
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A watercolour painting of Rigid Goldenrod by Norman Criddle.

Painting of Rigid Goldenrod by Norman Criddle, TMM H9-24-405.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Norman Criddle, Photo: Rebecca Bilsky

TMM H9-24-405
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A watercolour painting of Showy Goldenrod by Norman Criddle.

Painting of Showy Goldenrod by Norman Criddle, TMM H9-24-418.

The Manitoba Museum
Graphic: Norman Criddle, Photo: Rebecca Bilsky

TMM H9-24-418
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
-identify the parts of a goldenrod plant,
-identify the stages in the life cycle of a goldenrod,
-learn about the insects that help a goldenrod plant complete its life cycle,
-discover that an entire food web (producer-herbivore-carnivore) can occur on a single plant,
-understand that humans are also part of a goldenrod food web.

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