Also called saltbush or sea myrtle, this highly salt-tolerant shrub grows natively along the coastal edges of the eastern and southern US. Able to tolerate periodic drought and flooding, it is commonly found around salt marshes and beaches such as those on Cape Cod, where it helps prevent erosion. It may grow up to 12 feet both tall and wide, with dense branches and branchlets that provide shelter for many birds and other small wildlife. Though ecologically important in its native range, its hardiness and easy growth have made it an invasive species in New Zealand and parts of coastal Australia, where it was once introduced as an ornamental.
Groundsel bush sprouts small clusters of white flowers in the late summer and early autumn. They produce lots of nectar and attract various insect pollinators, including the monarch butterfly. Later in the fall, these modest blooms succumb to long, fluffy, silvery-white seed heads that tend to stand out against surrounding foliage. The fluffy hairs are light and easily windblown, allowing seed dispersal over large distances. This is essential, as these short-lived, deciduous shrubs rarely live more than 50 years.