Species Profile

Houghton's Goldenrod

Scientific Name: Solidago houghtonii
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2005
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Quick Links: | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Houghton's Goldenrod


Houghton’s Goldenrod is a perennial herb measuring 30 to 60 cm high. It has a slender, smooth reddish stem with a rosette of small leaves at its base. Lower stem leaves are narrow and elongated, measuring up to 18 cm long. They are sometimes slightly folded along the midrib. Leaves become smaller and less clasping further up the stem. At the top of the stem, there is a flat-topped inflorescence consisting of 5 to 30 bright yellow flowering heads, sometimes up to 200. Each flowering head consists of 20 to 30 small closely clustered flowers surrounded by a ring of small leaves.


Distribution and Population

Houghton’s Goldenrod occurs primarily on the northern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. It is found only in Ontario and Michigan. In Canada, the species is found on Cabot Head at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula, and at several sites on Manitoulin Island in northern Lake Huron. Most of these sites are on the La Cloche Peninsula, Great La Cloche Island and Little La Cloche Island, but there is also one population on Cockburn Island, over 100 km west of the La Cloche area. The species has also been reported on the Wikwemikong First Nation at Tamarack Bay, south of Manitoulin Island.   In 2003, the Canadian population was estimated at 27,000 mature flowering individuals.  Approximately 9,080 individuals were found in the La Cloche area, several hundred on Cockburn Island, 4,500 at Tamarack Bay and 12,520 at Cabot Head.  The populations appear to be stable.



Houghton’s Goldenrod is closely associated with the shores of the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. In Ontario, the species occurs primarily on alvars, habitats characterized by limestone outcrops, thin soil, a sparse vegetation community and the absence of trees. The poor drainage on the limestone outcrops results in spring flooding due to snowmelt or, in the case of shoreline alvars, periodic flooding. However, the water quickly evaporates from the thin soils, and drought conditions are common during the summer. Houghton’s Goldenrod also grows on sand beaches and interdunal wetlands along the Great Lakes shoreline.



Houghton’s Goldenrod is a perennial plant that flowers in August and early September. The flowers, which are produced by less than one third of the stems, are pollinated by various insects. The seeds are dispersed by wind, and require light and a chilling period to germinate. The species can also reproduce by means of rhizomes, or underground stems. Its presence in alvars indicates that it is probably tolerant to drought and flooding.



The few Canadian Houghton’s Goldenrod populations are limited primarily to alvars, which are a rare habitat in Ontario, likely to be subject to human development. Although there does not appear to be any imminent threats at this time, the use of recreational vehicles could pose a threat.   It is vulnerable to natural disturbances, such as drought and floods.   Residential development and invasive alien species are also potential threats.   Finally, quarry operations may become a threat, but do not appear to have an impact on populations at this time.



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Team

Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island Alvar Ecosystem Recovery Team

  • Kirsten Querbach - Chair/Contact - Environment Canada
    Phone: 819-938-4038  Send Email


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date A National Recovery Strategy for Alvar Ecosystems of the Bruce Peninsula and Manitoulin Island regions in Ontario has been developed. The recovery goal is to maintain long term viability of the Houghton’s Goldenrod and address knowledge gaps relating to this species. Summary of Research/Monitoring Volunteers are collecting data related to disturbances and threats to the Houghton’s Goldenrod. Researchers are studying the genetics of Houghton’s Goldenrod to better understand its preference for either sand or alvar habitats. Researchers are also addressing knowledge gaps relating to the biological limitations of this species. Summary of Recovery Activities Recovery of the Houghton’s Goldenrod will be achieved primarily through maintenance of existing populations, mitigation of threats to its habitat, site stewardship, and public education. Dune conservation monitoring workshops are being held to inform the public of the plant’s sensitive habitat and the measures being taken to preserve it. Local volunteers and municipal staff along Lake Huron are being trained to eradicate invasive species on dune grasslands to prevent further loss of Houghton’s Goldenrod. Interpretive displays and an educational newspaper series are being used to inform the public of sand dune sensitivity and the ecological significance of these ecosystems. Stewardship agreements with private land owners are being developed. URL Ontario’s Biodiversity: Species at Riskwww.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&lang=&id=306


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

9 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Houghton's goldenrod Solidago houghtonii in Canada (2005)

    Houghton's goldenrod (Solidago houghtonii) is about 30-60 cm high with slender reddish hairless stems, basal rosettes, linear leaves, and a flat-topped inflorescence consisting of 5 to 30 yellow flowering heads. It is most likely to be mistaken for grass-leaved goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia) or Ohio goldenrod (Solidago ohioensis). It is believed to have evolved from a hybrid of either S. ptarmicoides and S. ohioensis or S. riddellii and S. ohioensis.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Houghton's Goldenrod (2005)

    A Great Lakes endemic present in Ontario at the tip of Bruce Peninsula and on Manitoulin Island. The few populations occupy very small areas of provincially rare alvar habitat that are at potential risk from aggregate extraction, use of recreational vehicles and expansion of invasive weeds.

Management Plans


COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2005 (2005)

    2005 Annual Report to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: November 2005 (2005)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017