Individually, the flowers of silverling, Baccharis glomeruliflora, aren't much to look at. They're small, white and resemble an artist's paint brush. Collectively, they grab your eye's attention. Even more so when the plant is full of its puffy fruit.
It's found along the edges of wet forests throughout most of Florida, including almost all of the Peninsula. It is a Florida native.
The plant is also found throughout the southeastern United States as far north as North Carolina and as far west as Mississippi, and in parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, the Bahamas and Bermuda. Its population is secure in South Florida, but considered threatened in parts of its range, including North Carolina.
Silverling is a shrub, more upright than spreading, that can reach six to eight feet in height. Its leaves are oblong, one to two inches in length, and leathery. They can have a few widely spaced teeth along the outer edges, which can create an angular effect.
Silverling is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are on separate plants, and pollen is distributed from one to the other by wind. Which is a problem for us humans, because silverling pollen is considered a severe allergen.
The plant blooms in the late fall and early winter, later producing whispy seeds that are designed to be carried by the wind. Silverling provides cover for birds and other animals; the flowers provide nectar for monarchs and other butterflies.
Silverling is cultivated for use in natural landscapes and restorations, and occasionally as an accent plant in wet or moist soil and a sunny location. It can be grown and trained as a hedge as well. And it does tolerate salt to a degree.
However, those wind-blown seeds can distribute the plant to places where it's not wanted. Oh, and there's that problem with the pollen, which should be factored into any decision whether to use the plant. Silverling is also reportedly toxic to livestock, though most animals won't touch the stuff unless they've nothing else to eat.
The plant has a cousin, the groundsel tree, B. halimifolia, that looks similar and is sometimes called silverling. Conversely, silverling is sometimes called groundsel bush.
It is a member of Asteraceae, the aster family. Other common names include baccharis and southern baccharis.