Sad Saltbush or Sea myrtle

Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia) didn’t show off much this fall, perhaps due to the lack of rainfall this summer. Check out its female fall show below in a photo below taken at the Indian River Lagoon Greenway last year …

This year It failed to flower in many locations or flowered only a bit. Many plants seem to be struggling and are covered with sooty mold. Hopefully, the recent winter rains will help to wash away the sooty mold and re-invigorate.

Saltbush is the name that many folks (including me) use for this plant. The Florida Plant Atlas names it groundsel tree or sea myrtle. Other common names used for this plant include salt mash-elder, eastern baccharis, and consumptionweed.

Groundsel tree is dioecious; Male and female flowers occur on different plants. Female plants (forergound) are quite showy in the fall when when they are covered with silky hairs, especially when compared to male plants (background).

These silvery white silken hairs are attached to tiny seeds and act as “parachute” that aids seed dispersal, though sometimes things go awry, as in the photo at the left where a spider web “intercepted” lots of the fly-away seeds.

Groundseltree grows to be up to 15′ tall, and is the only native tree in the daisy family, Asteraceae. As with most members of this plant family, pollinators are attracted to the flowers of the groundsel tree, including a grey hairstreak butterfly and sweat bee in the photos below taken by George Bollis …

Groundsel tree is unassuming in appearance most of the year with its gray-green leaves with toothed margins but almost always quite showy in the fall. Consider incorporating this perennial tree in your landscape as a pollinator plant.

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