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Florida Groundsel Bush Baccharis halimifolia


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Florida Groundsel Bush, shrub
credit: Bill Johnson, National Park Service

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Alternate name: Silverling, Sea Myrtle, Groundseltree

Family: Asteraceae, Aster view all from this family

Description Baccharis halimifolia is a shrub growing to about 12 ft (4 m) high and comparably wide, or occasionally a small tree. Its simple, alternate, thick, egg-shaped to rhombic leaves mostly have coarse teeth, with the uppermost leaves entire. These fall-flowering Baccharis plants are dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate individuals. Their flowers are borne in numerous small, compact heads in large leafy terminal inflorescences, with the snowy-white, cotton-like female flower-heads showy and conspicuous at a distance.

The species is sometimes confused with the marsh-elder (Iva frutescens), with which it often co-occurs, but the Baccharis has its leaves alternate, while those of the Iva are alternate.

Baccharis halimifolia, usually found in wetlands, is unusually salt-tolerant, and often found along salty or brackish shores of marshes and estuaries, and the inland shores of coastal barrier islands. In Florida, it is also found along ditches, in old fields, and in other disturbed areas. Other habitats in the northeastern United States include freshwater tidal marshes and open woods and thickets along the seacoast.

The flowers produce abundant nectar that attracts various butterflies, including the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). These dense shrubs also provide wildlife food and cover.

Habitat Beaches & shorelines, Fields, Swamps (fresh & salt).

Range New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Florida, Texas, Plains.

Comments No disease or insect problems, but the weak wood is easily broken. Fast-growing. Salt tolerant.

Exposure Preference Sun.

Flower August - September

Native Distribution Mexico & e. Texas to Florida, n. to coast of Massachusetts; believed to have once been restricted to the outer Coastal Plain, but now widely spread inland

Site Preference Salt marshes; shores; wet, disturbed places

Soil Preference Wet to droughty, gravel to fine sands. pH 7-8.5.

Wildlife Value Very low.