Thursday, November 13, 2014

What is Baccharis

Recently there has been lots of conversation at the Refuge about Baccharis, but what is it?   Growing in profusion along many of the Pad roads, this plant provided a roosting spot for many migrating monarchs this fall.   We consulted Dr. George Diggs about which species of Baccharis we are seeing.  Dr. Diggs said that the Baccharis we are seeing is most probably Baccharis neglecta Britton.  He added, “While I haven’t collected B. halimifolia at the refuge, it is definitely in the area (known from both Dallas and Fannin counties) and I suspect it has moved into Grayson County by now.”  Both are native to the lower 48 states.

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, UT, Baccharis neglecta Britton, which is also known as False Willow, Jara dulce, Poverty Weed, Roosevelt Weed, is “A weedy, tall (6 -12’) shrub abundant in fields out of cultivation and on disturbed ground, also in unshaded, low places. With ascending light brown branches and green twigs. Leaves partly evergreen, very narrow, less than 1/4 inch wide and up to 3 inches long. Male and female flowers on separate plants. Female flowers inconspicuous, silky, in small, greenish white heads which appear to be individual flowers, these arranged in large clusters up to 1 foot or more long and 8 inches wide, resembling silky plumes in October and November. Fruit, minute, about 1/16 inch long, borne on the wind by a tuft of hairs."

Baccharis neglecta (Photos by Melody Lytle, from  Wildflower Center Digital Library)
Baccharis, along Pad C at HNWR, by William H. Powell

The website notes that Baccharis is the ancient Greek name (derived from the god Bacchus) of a plant with fragrant roots, and the species name neglecta refers to the prevalence of this plant in neglected or disturbed areas.  The shrub offers a showy profusion of silky silver/white flowers, and is also a good nectar plant for many pollinators including some butterflies.   Luckily for the butterflies, the plant is highly deer resistant, too! 

Alternatively, Baccharis halimifolia, which is also known as  Groundseltree, Sea-myrtle, Consumptionweed, Eastern baccharis, Groundsel, Groundsel bush, Salt marsh-elder, Salt bush, Florida groundsel bush is also a 6 – 12 foot deciduous shrub which is tolerant of salt-water spray.  Its plumes in fall are said to resemble “silvery paintbrushes.”

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