This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flower-heads - White or yellowish tubular florets, 1 to 5 in pedun-cled clusters. Staminate and pistillate clusters on different shrubs; the former almost round at first, the latter conspicuous only when seeding; then their pappus is white, and about 1/3 in. long. Stem: A smooth, branching shrub, 3 to 10 ft. high. Leaves: Thick, lower ones ovate to wedge-shaped, coarsely angular-toothed; upper ones smaller, few-toothed or entire.
Preferred Habitat - Salt marshes, tide-water streams, often far from the coast.
Flowering Season - September - November.
Distribution - The Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Texas.
When the little bright white, silky cockades, clustered at the ends of the branches, appear on a female groundsel-bush in autumn, our eyes are attracted to the shrub for the first time. But had not small pollen carriers discovered it weeks before, the scaly, glutinous cups would hold no charming, plumed seeds ready to ride on autumn gales. Self-fertilization has been guarded against by precarious means, but the safest of all devices - separation of the sexes on distinct plants. These are absolutely dependent, of course, on insect messengers - not visitors merely. Bees, which always show less inclination to dally from one species of flower to another than any other guests, and more intelligent directness of purpose when out for business, are the groundsel-bush's truest benefactors. This is the only shrub among the multitudinous composite clan that most of us are ever likely to see.