The Assateague
Naturalist

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Picture
Picture
Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia)
Both the groundsel tree (also known as the sea myrtle and silvering) and the marsh elder are common in the higher parts of the marsh near Toms Cove (map) and elsewhere, often mixed in with saltmeadow cordgrass (the groundsel can also be found further from the marsh among other trees on the refuge).

The two shrubs are similar in appearance and size (the groundsel can grow several feet taller, to 14-15 feet - the upper photo shows a small, young plant) and can be most easily distinguished by their leaves: the groundsel's leaves alternate along the stem (lower photo) and are duck-foot-shaped with several irregular teeth along the upper edges (middle photo); the marsh elder's leaves emerge on opposite sides from the same point on the stems and taper to a point at both the top and bottom with teeth along nearly the full length of both edges.

The groundsel tree, found along the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward, has light yellow flowers in late summer followed by a display of silver-bristled seeds (thus the alternate name, "silvering").

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