Saltbush – A Late Blooming Native Shrub
If you have noticed bursts of white-flowered shrubs along roadsides, trails, and other natural areas the last couple of weeks, there’s a good chance that it was saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia). Saltbush is a native shrub in the sunflower or daisy family (Asteraceae) that can be found throughout the Coastal Plain. It often grows along the edges of freshwater and brackish water wetlands, but also seems happy in upland sites as well. It prefers sunny sites and can reach a height of ten to fifteen feet. There are separate female and male plants of this species, with females having the showy, white blooms while males are somewhat plain.
While it can be quite common in natural areas, it is rarely seen in the home landscape. Although saltbush is a somewhat leggy shrub, its home landscape value comes from the fact that it blooms at a time when most other plants are done blooming or are going into dormancy. In addition to its show of white flowers at a time when many other landscape plants are becoming drab, saltbush is also an important nectar source for migrating monarch butterflies. It is also tolerant of salt spray, so makes a good addition to the landscape in coastal areas.
Saltbush may be hard to find in the retail nursery trade, but can often be sourced from nurseries that specialize in native plants or ecosystem restoration plantings. There are male and female plants, so when purchasing, you may want to see it in bloom to verify that you picked a female. If you know someone with saltbush on their property, you can start some on your own by collecting seed or propagating it through soft or hardwood cuttings.
If you would like to try out an underused, native shrub that provides great late fall color and helps feed monarch butterflies for their journey home, plant a saltbush in your landscape. You may have neighbors asking about that unusual, but pretty, shrub.
More information can be found at Baccharis halimifolia Salt Bush, Groundsel Bush