Plants (forming diffuse clones) 15-80 (-150) cm; rhizomes creeping, slender. Stems 1 (at ends of rhizomes), ascending to erect, glabrate proximal-ly to sparsely to densely strigoso-puberulent distally. Leaves: basal and proximal cauline often persisting to flowering, gradually tapering to winged petioles, blades linear oblanceolate to oblanceolate, rarely spatulate, 50-120 × 8-30 mm, proximalmost much smaller, margins entire to sharply serrate, faces glabrate to moderately scabroso-strigose; mid and distal cauline sessile or subsessille, blades elliptic to oblanceolate or obovate, 10-50 × 3-12 mm, mid tapering to bases, somewhat to strongly 3-nerved, largest, usually much reduced distally, margins entire or sometimes distally serrate, apices acute, faces sparsely to densely strigoso-puberulent, sometimes softly so. Heads (2-)30-500, in narrow to broad, thyrsiform to secund-pyramidal paniculiform arrays, branches recurved, secund, congested to lax. Peduncles 1-6 mm, sparsely to densely strigillose; bracteoles 0-5, sometimes clustered near to and grading into phyllaries, linear-lanceolate. Involucres campanulate, 3.5-6 mm. Phyllaries in 3-5 series, lanceolate to oblong, strongly unequal, acute or sometimes obtuse, glabrous or sparsely strigillose. Ray florets 6-12; laminae 2.9-6.3 × 0.3-0.7(-1) mm . Disc florets 5-17; corollas 3.5-6 mm, lobes 0.8-1.7 mm. Cypselae 0.7-2.7 mm, sparsely to densely strigillose; pappi 2.5-4.7 mm.
G. L. Nesom (1993b) merged Solidago californica, S. sparsiflora, and S. velutina without recognizing any infraspecific taxa, as did A. Cronquist (1994). J. C. Semple et al. (1990) compared S. californica and S. sparsiflora to S. nemoralis and found that all three are significantly different in a multivariate analysis. Evidence for separating the two subspecies of S. nemoralis was greater than the support for separating S. californica and S.sparsiflora.
FNA 2006, Kearney and Peebles 1969, Allred and Ivey 2012, Heil et al. 2013
Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Forb/Herb General: Perennial herbs, 15-80 cm tall, from slender creeping rhizomes; stems ascending to erect, glabrate below and sparsely to densely strigose above. Leaves: In basal clusters and alternate along stems, lower leaves with bases tapering into winged petioles and upper leaves sessile to subsessile; basal and lower cauline leaves sometimes withering before flowering and sometimes persisting; blades linear-oblanceolate to oblanceolate, rarely spatulate, 5-12 cm long and 7 mm to 3 cm wide, with the upper leaves much smaller than the lower leaves; leaf margins entire or occasionally shallowly serrate; surfaces glabrate to moderately scabrose-strigose. Flowers: Flower heads obscurely radiate, yellow, numerous in showy terminal club-shaped or pyramid-shaped panicles, the flower heads secund (on one side of the branches only); up to 5 linear-lanceolate bracteoles subtend the involucre, these sometimes clustered near and grading into phyllaries; involucres campanulate, 3-6 mm high, the phyllaries lanceolate to oblong and glabrous to sparsely strigillose in 3–5 strongly unequal series; ray florets 6–12 per flower head, the laminae (ray petals)3-6 mm long, yellow; disc florets 5–17 per flower head, yellow. Fruits: Achenes 1-3 mm long, covered with stiff hairs; topped with a pappus of bristles, 2-5 mm long. Ecology: Found in a variety of habitats including roadcuts, arroyos, grassy fields and hills, canyon bottoms and intermittent stream beds, from 2,000-8,500 ft (610-2591 m); flowers June-October. Distribution: Western US from OR and CA east to WY, CO, NM, and TX. Notes: This common Solidago is often found in moist riparian-type habitats, but not always. It appears quite similar to S. altissima (treated as S. canadensis in some texts); distinguish them by the stem pubescence (S. velutina has velvety stems while S. altissima has sparsely short-hairy stems) and the leaves (S. altissima tends to have leaves more densely crowded than S. velutina, and S. velutina can sometimes have narrower leaves than S. altissima, which has oblanceolate or lanceolate leaves. In older texts, look for the species under S. sparsiflora. Ethnobotany: The species is known to have healing properties for cuts and sores; it also has ceremonial uses. Etymology: Solidago from the Latin solidus, whole, and ago, resembling or becoming, alluding to its healing properties; velutina means velvety. Synonyms: Solidago arizonica, S. californica var. nevadensis, S. canadensis var. arizonica, S. howellii, S. sparsiflora, S. spathulata var. subcinerea, S. trinervata, S. velutina var. nevadensis Editor: SBuckley 2010, AHazelton 2017