Groundsel is letting loose

At the beginning of the week, the blustery winds and rain sent an abundance of leaves to air, settling on the paths, woodlands, and on the water’s surface in the Wetlands. Yesterday (11/18) it was Groundsel Tree’s turn, but this time it’s the seeds that are being spread over the landscape.

Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia), Siverling, Sea Myrtle, Saltbush, whatever you prefer to call it, is native to coastal marshes. But, you may have noticed it’s white billowing flowers and silky seeds as you drive along the Piedmont’s highways each fall where it grows in the roadside ditches, and in fact, any wet spot in our area.

Groundsel Tree in front of a Bald Cypress in the Wetlands.

Groundsel’s seeds are dispersed by the wind so it can travel great distances in a hurry, botanically speaking. It may have infiltrated our area along those same highways that speed us to the coast on our vacations, propagating in the sloughs along the road. But of course it’s also planted as a windbreak and border plant.

The North Carolina Native Plant Society places it in Rank 3, or Lesser Threat, on their invasive species list, Rank 1 being a Severe Threat.

As far as its utility, the wood is soft and of little use (there’s not much wood on this shrub) and I don’t know of any animals that eat the seeds. However, many bees, wasps, flies, and some butterflies nectar on the flowers, often one of the only nectar sources around during fall. From personal experience, I know that along the coast Monarch Butterflies use the plant for both nectar and shelter and migrating songbirds use the shrub for shelter and gleaning insects.

The purpose of this post, however, is not to discuss the merits of the plant but to, well, have a look below…

The slightest puff of wind sends the silky seeds airborne.










Many of the seeds end up in the water. The red-brown area is made up of Bald Cypress and Dawn Redwood needles dropped the previous day.






The abundant seeds create a white film on the water’s surface.

By the way, there are both male and female trees (dioecious). Both sexes are required to produce viable seeds.

See you in the Wild!


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