This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on December 13, 2013 at the defunct national blog nativeplantwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.
I’ve heard people refer to Saltbush (Baccharis halimifolia) as a “trash tree”. I assumed that it had this reference because it is a short-lived perennial with somewhat weak limbs, but I was curious about what others actually meant by this. Various definitions I’ve found of “trash tree” are
The latter is more to my liking because when it comes to Saltbush a.k.a. Groundsel or Silverling, if you believe the first and think it has no value, well, you have been severely misguided.
In spring it is a favorite among nesting birds for its cover and also for its wide variety of arthropods which feed young nestlings.
Come late fall and early winter, Saltbush provides one of the more beneficial late-nectar sources for the pollinator community and hunting ground for other fauna’s major players. It is a more bountiful provider than any landscape could hope for. It is dioecious and a male specimen is what caught my attention this week.
Native to the Coastal states in the Eastern U.S. from New York/Connecticut down to Florida and then west to Texas. It can be used as a specimen or lined up as a hedge. Clip it to keep it at whatever height is most desirable to you. I let mine grow to their natural form. With prolific seeds, it can be somewhat aggressive, but I manage to control it but pulling up seedlings and if it appears in any of the paths, mowing it down while young.
So, why do I think it is so valuable? If you’ve been following the photos, as a wildlife gardener you probably have started to realize just how many species are rewarded by what is held within.
Loved by paper wasps:
Loved by mason wasps:
Unfortunately, loved by invasive Cuban treefrogs who lie in wait
But then again, another who lies in wait is the much revered Florida native Green Anole.
Another critter who is a patient predator is the Jagged Ambush Bug (Phymata fasciata):
Beetles join the party:
Of course, the old standby exotic Honeybee joins in:
Bottle flies are efficient pollinators:
So, when it comes to trash trees, B. halimifolia makes a wildlife garden a landfill full of life.