2008-11-21 / Beauty in the Backyard

Stopping to smell the flowers

The Late Bloomer
By Arlene marturanoa@ Myahrotuo.rcaonmo

Paint- brush like fibers cover on groundsel's seed. Paint- brush like fibers cover on groundsel's seed. Remember the children's

book Leo the Late

Bloomer about a young tiger who could not keep up with his peers? He just bloomed on a different schedule than the others. The story is used by teachers and parents to ease the growing pains of the young. Plants can be late bloomers too.

The groundsel shrub maintains an inconspicuous profile throughout most of the year along roadsides, in ditches, fencerows, highway cloverleaf's, open woods and pastures. Its grey- green leaves blend in with the surroundings in spring and summer. In winter the multistemmed shrub has no leaves at all. When common companions like Joe Pye weed, goldenrod, wild plum, blackberries receive attention for their flowers and fruit, groundsel recedes into the background.

But in November the groundsel starts blooming and seems to be everywhere. Look for a 6- 12 foot unfettered shrub with a rounded crown swaying in the breeze with clouds of white flowers and fruit. The white show continues into December, a time when few shrubs are in bloom.

When you find the shrub, get up close to examine the flowers and fruit. The white female flowers transform into dry fruits with paint- brush like fibers. The fibers disperse the seed into the air like cottonwood trees or dandelions release seed.

The groundsel, Baccharis hamilifolia, is a native southeastern shrub rarely found in the home landscape. The shrub requires a sunny and moist location. It tolerates saline and acidic soils. Coastal communities use groundsel, sometimes called the salt bush, in the marsh and on dunes due to its salt tolerance. Classified as a small shrub it is suitable as a screen or specimen tree for limited space.

It is a prime shrub for a wildlife habitat and may be partnered with wax myrtle. Birds seek the shrub for seed, shelter and nesting. Bees, moths, and butterflies are attracted to the flower's nectar. The fast- growing low maintenance shrub has no pests or diseases.

The shrub is easy to propagate from seed or stem cuttings. There are no cultivars. Woodlanders in Aiken is one of the few nurseries to sell the shrub.

Classified as a small multi- stemmed shrub, groundsel works well in limited space. Classified as a small multi- stemmed shrub, groundsel works well in limited space. Go in search of the groundsel in the Midlands. Consider adding the vigorous late fall bloomer to your garden.

In the wild groundsel may form thickets. In the wild groundsel may form thickets.

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