How to Make Miniature Trees from Goldenrods

Nature provides many great examples of miniaturized vegetation that we can use on our layouts. So I’m continuing with my series on using natural materials from your own yard or fields to make inexpensive and pretty nice trees.

You might consider this a strange material for a tree because it causes some people with allergies to suffer, but if you are not affected by the pollen then Goldenrod can make a pretty good tree for your model railroad layout, as I will show you here.

Ready for Picking

This is what the weed looks like in its natural habitat as it is blooming. Goldenrod, a weed in the U.S., is planted in other parts of the world as a blooming flower.

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You’ll often find Goldenrod growing along the side of the road. It’s yours for the time it takes to harvest it.

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The goldenrod is ready for picking and turning into model trees after it turns a grayish white.

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Preparing the Goldenrod for Its New Life as a Tree

Here is the beginning of a new tree. You’ll notice the really realistic branch structure! Those leaves on the stem need to be picked off before it becomes a tree for the railroad.

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Below are three branches that I’ve spray painted green with a rattle can. I always wear gloves for this part of the job and cover up the stems as much as I can so they remain a nice brown-gray color.

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The tree on the left will make a wonderful tree all by itself. The two on the right can be combined into a heftier looking tree.

Get Out the Glue Gun and Tape

For this next part I just wrap the trunks with masking tape, or you could use floral tape instead. I then smear hot glue from a glue gun all over the new “trunk”. Some people use putty for this step and it works great also.

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Here the tree has been sprayed green again. Sometimes I even add ground foam to the branches before the paint dries. This will help a rather sparse tree look better.

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Final Coloring of the Trunk

After the glue dries, I spray the trunk a grey color and then smear washes of acrylic black and raw sienna all over the trunk to give it some depth, as you can see in these pictures.

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The Completed Trees Can Enhance Your Scenes

Now the trees are put on the layout. As you can see from this photo, I like to have trees in a variety of colors and textures. There are other ways to make trees, but scratch-built trees are a great and fun way to do it. The main thing to avoid is having trees that all look the same. Variety is the spice of life and the key to realistic scenery.

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Do you have any other ideas for using natural materials in your layouts? Let us know in the comments.

Related blog: Making Scale Trees from Hydrangea Blooms

Discussion
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5 Responses to “How to Make Miniature Trees from Goldenrods”
  1. L Paul

    Have a care as wild parsnip looks very similar to goldenrod, but is very irritating to the skin. It is very prevalent along the roads in southern VT, probably elsewhere.

    Reply
  2. Larry Bouget

    I’m new at this experience and I’m seeking advice. Not sure where to start with all this. Went to a store to purchase train and tracks but was not sure where to start. I’m 59 years old, just a big kid at heart. We’re waiting on our 16th grandchild and want to amaze our new grandbaby when she arrives. Could someone please give me guidance about where to start. What do I need to purchase first. I’m wanting to start with a 4’X8′ sheet of plywood for a winter/ Christmas scene. I want to have mountain tunnels and bridges. Being a river boat captain I also want to incorporate a navigable waterway with a boat pushing barges(stationary). I will construct those parts myself. Should I use 3/4″ plywood for strength and sturdiness? Please send ideas. Thanks, Capt. Larry Bouget

    Reply