LOOSELEAF LAUREATE: Gold rush: Heading into the hills to find it

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By Terri Likens, Editor

If any wildflower deserves a fan club, it is solidago. And I would fight like a dog to be the president of it.
I thought as much as I took the winding roads up Roan Mountain over the long weekend.
My mother and I had abandoned our plans to swim at Indian Boundary Lake (too chilly that day), and instead made the drive to upper East Tennessee.
We stopped at the Gray Fossil Site near Johnson City, took the tour and marveled over the many magnificent prehistoric animals that once walked the earth there.
After getting an educational eyeful, we headed into the highlands.
Solidago, or more commonly, goldenrod, seemed to grow in every shape and size along the way.
There were tall, torch-shaped varieties, tiny little wisps, round-leafed, hairy leafed, clump-shaped and white-flowered and more.
Roan Mountain is the location of one of the rarer types of the plant, the endangered Roan Mountain goldenrod which can paint the highland fields in a brilliant reflection of the sun.
As a fan, the variety came as no surprise to me There are more than 50 varieties in the wild in North America alone.
My affection for the plant is shared by many, some who might surprise you.
Take Henry Ford. Yeah, THAT Henry Ford. And Thomas Edison, too.
Now their love of the plant was not as much for the sheer beauty as for the moneymaking potential.
Goldenrod, they knew, contains a rubberlike substance, and they worked hard to turn it into a durable tire.
That dream fell flat, if you’ll pardon my pun, although rot-free samples of Edison’s work still hang on his laboratory walls, and he used a set of goldenrod-rubber tires on his own personal Model T Ford.
Still, I hope these two captains of industry still admired it in the fields as they drove by, much as I did last Sunday.
Goldenrod is the state flower in my native state of Kentucky (in Nebraska, too).
If I ever won the lottery, which I won’t because I almost never play the lottery, I would dedicate a portion of my fortune to traveling the country and beyond — just to see all the different species of goldenrod in the world.
Is that really so crazy?
After all, many before me have spent lives and fortunes ... in search of gold.