Latin Name: Baccharis halimifolia
Origin: Native of eastern North America and West Indies.
Known Hazards: The plant is potentially toxic to livestck.
Habitat: Open woods, thickets and borders of marshes near the coast, often in saline soils..
Edibility Rating: 0 (1-5)
Medicinal Rating: 1 (1-5)
Physical Characteristics:Erect perennial shrub or small tree to 2.5 (rarely to 7) m high. Stems much branched, small branches striate and hairless. Leaves to 7 cm long and to 4 cm wide on a stalk to 1.5 cm long. Seeds ribbed, hairless, to 1.7 mm long with hair-like bristles at apex.
Flowers: flowerheads to 5 mm wide, consisting of a number of small flowers (florets); hair-like bristles (pappus) of female florets to 12 mm long; hair-like bristles of male florets to 4 mm long. Female plants enveloped in white hairs during seeding. Flowers mostly autumn.The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is not self-fertile.
Distinguishing features: Distinguished by wedge-shaped leaves usually with a few large teeth towards the apex (ones at ends of branches often lack teeth) and on a stalk; plants male or female; flowerheads in panicles, male florets cream to pale yellow, female florets white; receptacle (where seeds attach) without scales.
Dispersal: Most spread by wind-dispersed seed. Long distance dispersal also by seeds on animals, in stock feed or in mud on vehicles.
The plant is used as a palliative and demulcent in consumption and cough.
Fuel; Hedge; Soil stabilization. A good fast-growing hedge for exposed maritime conditions. It retains its leaves into the new year but is rather bare in late winter. Plants have an extensive root system and can be grown on sand or thin coastal soils in order to bind the soil. Resinous secretions on the leaves and wood make this a useful fuel. It is a fairly small plant though and would not be a very productive source.
Notes: Seeds germinate at any time; plants mature after 2 years. Normally evergreen. Introduced in mid 1800s. Has low feed value and is suspected of poisoning livestock. Favours low-lying land near the sea (plants moderately salt tolerant) but also occurs in disturbed hinterland sites. Major weed; currently spreading. Eradicated from Busselton area in WA. A number of insects and a rust have been introduced for biological control of this shrub.