Darrell Blackwelder: Silverling trees has white- or cream-colored blooms

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2022

You may have noticed a small, shaggy tree full of fluffy white blooms throughout the county. The plant in question is a silverling or groundsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia). The plant is a member of the aster family (dandelion, mums, marigolds, etc.) reaching the size of a small tree. These may form dense thickets in open areas along roadways, abandoned fields and byways. The late fall bloomer is native to Nova Scotia, eastern and southern United States. The closer to the coast of the North Carolina, the more dense the populations. Growth of silverlings usually stops in the upper Piedmont and mountain regions.

Silverling tree

Silverling trees are considered a trash tree of no economic or aesthetic value for most landscapes and has also been placed on the watch list as a possible invasive species. In the fall they are are covered with white- to cream-colored flowers resembling a huge dandelion. Seeds are dispersed seeds blowing into open fields and other unattended areas during the winter months. Please also note that all parts of this plant are poisonous. However, this outcast native does have some redeeming values as a salt-tolerant hedge at coastal areas or as a planting in flood-prone areas. Silverling shrubs have been successfully implemented in difficult coastal landscapes as a small specimen tree or as a shrub border. From a distance, they possess aesthetic value, especially in the fall with its snowy, white blooms. The plant can be controlled with over the county broadleaf herbicides for woody plants. Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/baccharis-halimifolia/ for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.