In 2015 I gratefully received a grant from the Access Copyright Foundation to study and illustrate the native wildflower Late goldenrod (Solidago altissima) and the fauna it attracts. I spent a year photographing, identifying, researching, and illustrating goldenrod and the insects, spiders, and other organisms I observed on it. The result is a life-size watercolor painting of goldenrod in four seasons, with signs of fifty other associated species. The research inspired a second painting showcasing the different types of stem galls one might find on Solidago altissima.

I subsequently wrote three different articles about my research and illustrations:

  • “A passion, a grant, and life-size illustration of goldenrod.” Journal of Natural Science Illustration, [in press]
  • “What’s galling goldenrod? More than you’d think.” Ontario Insects, vol. 22, no. 1., September 2016
  • “Late Goldenrod,” The Blazing Star, vol. 17, issue 3, Summer 2016

The following text, excerpted from my article in Ontario Insects, explains my inspiration for the grant proposal.

Several years ago, a new understanding of the value of native plants dawned on me after reading the book “Bringing Nature Home” by Doug Tallamy. The book’s message is simple and hopeful: native plants support more insects than non-native plants and insects are a vital part of the food web. Therefore if we populate our urban and suburban landscapes with more native plants, we will help sustain the insects that utilize them and feed the birds, bats, frogs, and other wildlife that rely on those insects.
As a natural science illustrator, I began pondering how I could visually communicate Tallamy’s message. Around the same time, I was working on illustrations of the Goldenrod Gall Fly life cycle and some other meadow insects. The research phase of that project piqued my interest in goldenrod, a native plant that attracts many insects. I imagined that an illustration of goldenrod and many of the insects that use it would be a good way to help spread the word about the importance of native plants.

As part of my mission to promote goldenrod (and other native plants) as vital to our wildlife, I created interpretive posters featuring the illustrations that the grant funded. They are available here.

I plan to add more information to this page as time allows.

The two illustrations that arose from my grant proposal are below, along with some other goldenrod-related illustrations.


Stem galls on Late goldenrod – Emily S. Damstra

Goldenrod stem galls illustration solidago

Late goldenrod in four seasons – Emily S. Damstra

goldenrod Solidago altissima illustration

Life cycle of the goldenrod gall fly – Emily S. Damstra

goldenrod gall fly life cycle and tall goldenrod Eurosta solidaginis

Goldenrod crab spider – Emily S. Damstra

Goldenrod crab spider illustration Misumena vatia

Late goldenrod with Procecidochares atra galls – Emily S. Damstra

goldenrod galls illustration