www.zinnysworld.com    Copyright 2000-2018 by Thomas Zinneman.  All rights reserved. Groundsel Bush  Baccharis halimifolia

Groundsel Bush (Baccharis  halimifolia) is a native shrub or tree that can grow to a height of 10 feet or more and can be as wide as it is high.  You probably didn’t notice this bush during the spring and summer months.  However, during the fall, it becomes blanketed with small white flowers that cause it to standout in the landscape.  This bush is quite common along the eastern and southern coasts from Texas to Florida to Massachusetts.  Other common names for this plant are Eastern Baccharis, Saltbush, Sea Myrtle and Silverling. Because it is salt tolerant, it is commonly found along salty or brackish shores of marshes and estuaries.  Inland, it can be found in open woods, fields, roadsides and disturbed sites.

These plants are dioecious, which means there are separate male and female plants.  The female plant appears white and silky when in bloom, whereas the male plant appears much duller and more greenish in color.  The male plant doesn’t grow as tall as the female plant.  However, the flowers of the male plant produce nectar, which attracts a variety of insects, including bees, wasps and small butterflies.

The Groundsel Bush is a perennial that can be single-stemmed from the base and tree-like. More often, it is a densely-branched shrub.  The alternate grayish-green leaves are oval to elliptical in shape and up to 3 inches long.  The larger leaves are near the base and become smaller as they progress upwards.  The leaf margins may be smooth or coarsely-toothed from the mid-point outward.  In South Florida, the leaves stay on the plant year round.  In Central and North Florida, the leaves fall off during the winter months.

Would you believe this plant is a member of the Aster (Asteraceae) family.  Most species of this family are herbaceous; however, the Groundsel Bush is a woody shrub.  Members of this family also have composite flower heads with petals (ray flowers) surrounding a central disc containing many small flowers (disc flowers).  The Groundsel Bush has numerous small flower heads that appear in clusters at the tips of the branches.  Each tubular-shaped head is about 3/8-inch long and enclosed with narrow green-tipped bracts.  Each head contains    many small flowers. The non-showy staminate heads (male) have 25-30 yellow-green disc flowers.  The pistillate heads (female) have 20-30 disc flowers with white hairs (pappus) extending out from the heads.  

The flowers on these plants bloom from August to October and are inconspicuous.  Pollen from the male flowers is carried by the wind to the female flowers.  By the way, the pollen is an allergen.  So, if you have allergies, you may want to be careful around these plants.  After the female flowers are pollinated, the seeds start to develop and the pappi become longer.  The white pappi of the female plants remain silky white during this period, November and December.  The seeds gradually become topped with the long and silky white hairs, giving the plants an overall fuzzy, cottony look.  It is during this period that the female shrubs become quite showy.  Eventually, the flower heads open and the fluffy white seeds float away with the wind. This plant is quite a prolific seed producer and hundreds of thousands of seeds may be produced.  

The photos on this page were taken in Deep Creek in Charlotte County. Additional information on this plant may be found by clicking on the following links:

     Atlas of Florida Plants

     USDA PLANTS Database

      Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center

Groundsel Bushes - male bush in front; female bush in rear.

Leaf arrangement.

Male flowers.

Female flowers.

Fluffy seeds.

Honey bee sipping nectar.

Female Groundsel Bush