Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Baccharis neglecta

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Baccharis neglecta; click for greater clarity.

Though many of you up north have been having frost for weeks, or even snow, one of the delights a native plant lover in central Texas can look forward to each autumn is the frosty-looking form taken on by the “weak” bush or small tree—that seems to be the way field guides inevitably describe it—that botanists know as Baccharis neglecta. The species name is historically appropriate, because during the hard times of the 1930s, when many farmers were forced to abandon their properties, this species took advantage of the situation by planting itself on those neglected pieces of former farmland. People of that difficult era understandably came to call the bush poverty weed, Roosevelt weed, New Deal weed, and Depression weed.

I photographed this Baccharis neglecta at Riata Trace Park in northwest Austin on the cloudy morning of October 27; that cloudiness accounts for the picture’s subdued tonality. Behind the bush you can see the leaves of a native grape vine and beyond them some branches of black willow, a tree often found near water.

Baccharis neglecta is mostly confined to Texas, as you can see from the clickable map at the USDA website, but the similar species Baccharis halimifolia grows from east Texas along the Gulf coast to Florida and up the Atlantic coast as far as Massachusetts.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 3, 2011 at 5:06 AM

12 Responses

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  1. I’ve always liked this plant. I saw it when a teenager I moved to Texas. I thought it was just lovely because the ones I first saw were very smokey and misty with flowers. Thanks for the photo.


    November 3, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    • Good to hear from another Baccharis fan. They’re just past their peak now, as the wind has been blowing the fluff away. Stay tuned for a closeup tomorrow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2011 at 11:00 AM

  2. I have a similar variety growing on the back of our property, another volunteer brought in by April’s storms, and had wondered about asking you for an ID… In California, in and near the foothills, we planted a lot of cultivated Baccharis because of its resistance to fire, its land stabilizing ability, and the fact that it needed no watering. What I never realized was that it blooms! I must agree with Nancy above, the billowy, smoky look is beautiful. 🙂

    Seems that being patient brought me an answer anyway. Thanks Steve! ~ Lynda


    November 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    • Ah, you didn’t know I could read minds. I’m glad you now know what this is and that you appreciate its billowy look when it flowers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2011 at 1:05 PM

  3. I have seen a profusion of various insects attracted to the flowers on one of these plants that I have in my yard. This year I didn’t notice them, probably because of the drought. The plant itself is doing fine.

    Baccharis neglecta makes an attractive plant in the landscape if it is trimmed for symmetry and form several times a year. I like the way it resembles the willows. I have noticed that in Austin, Texas, they usually behave as an annual, flowering in the fall and dying. They only turn into bushes in unusually wet years, but if they live through that first winter they become large deciduous bushes. Mine is probably five or ten years old.

    Lloyd Ewing

    November 3, 2011 at 8:37 PM

    • I’ve occasionally noticed the profusion of insects on this species, too, including a few times this year. Some of the individual plants I’ve seen recently are doing fine, but others are looking the worse for wear—i.e. drought—with not as many blooms as usual, or worse, turning brown and dying. On the whole it’s a hardy species and, in spite of some of its weedy names, especially attractive in October and November.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2011 at 8:51 PM

  4. I’m wondering if this is the billowy hill country plant I’ve always enjoyed along the edges of pastures and fencelines. There’s no way to say for sure, but the lovely froth always reminded me of the ripened milkweed pods I grew up with.

    By the time the next cycle comes around, I’ll be so well-educated in my native plants I’ll be able to make an identification!


    November 3, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    • I suspect this is the billowy plant you’ve always enjoyed. Like so many other plants, they have a better chance of surviving on the edges of pastures and along fencelines, where the mowers have a harder time getting to them. Let’s hope you can still see some this season.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2011 at 5:50 AM

  5. A really good book about the Dust Bowl is “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan.


    November 3, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    • Thanks for your book recommendation. I certainly wouldn’t want to have lived through those conditions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 4, 2011 at 5:52 AM

  6. […] taken on the cloudy morning of October 27 at Riata Trace Park in northwest Austin, showed some Baccharis neglecta in its fluffy state. Although you could appreciate the overall fluffiness, you couldn’t see […]

  7. […] Texas are surprised to learn that there’s a local member of the sunflower family that’s a willowy tree, they’re equally surprised to find out there’s a member of the sunflower family here […]

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