Wishlist: Baccharis halimifolia

by Andrew Keys on March 11, 2010

There’s something wildly appealing about the horticultural tableau of the roadside, when it isn’t taken up by invasive species. From Texas to Florida and up to Massachusetts, Baccharis halimifolia, the groundsel tree, is one plant I’m always glad to see growing by the highway.

My earliest memory of Baccharis takes me back to a time when I’d first begun to notice plants, when my two sisters and I would frequently be packed into the back seat of a rattletrap Volvo and shuttled an INFINITE hour and a half to my maternal grandparents’ in central Mississippi. I remember the plant’s fluffy seedheads all over fall roadsides, and I remember thinking it must be a weed because it grew from cracks in the pavement, but still… A pretty darn cool weed.

In fact Baccharis was such a cool weed I became curious as to other plants that grew in the most inhospitable places, and something of an obsession was born. There’s a good chance that weed first sparked my interest in drought-tolerant gardening.

Cut to 2009, when I’d decided Baccharis might fit perfectly, rebelliously, into my plan for my front flowerbed. I inquired on Twitter as to whether anyone grew it on purpose, and when none other than Margaret Roach replied and said she’d grown it for years and loved it, I ordered mine post haste.

I’ve so enjoyed watching this plant grow in the past year. It’s fast growing, so it’s quickly taking its place at the table. Its silvery leaves are a fascinating shape. My only worry is whether I’ll get those fluffy seeds since I only have the single female, and I don’t know of others growing nearby. All signs point to no, but the nursery I ordered it from intimated they could probably snag a male plant for me too, ahem, as in “It grows EVERYWHERE here, you crazy fool.”

So we’ll see! In the meantime, it’s grown a good four feet, so I’m thinking it’s happy. One more to cross off the list.

Here’s a slideshow from various Flickr users where you can see those lovely seedheads

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