Marsh-Elder

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday it’s another one of our salty shrubs, Marsh-Elder (Iva frutescens).

Marsh Elder is a woody, perennial shrub found all along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and on the shores of all our tidal creeks here on Edisto Island. It grows head high with upward reaching branches. Its leaves, simple and elliptical, are arranged oppositely with a lightly-toothed margin and thick, leathery texture. Like many of our salt marsh shrubs, Marsh-Elder has fleshy leaves which allows it to store water and resist its preferred hot and salt-soaked habitat. Its leaves are semi-evergreen, or “tardily deciduous” as they say, meaning it sheds its leaves in winter or early spring, rather than fall. Marsh-Elder is easiest to identify after they start to bloom in summer. Each stem will produce a flower stalk at its tip with gradually shrinking leaves spiraling through a column of small, inconspicuous, green and cream-colored flowers. These flowers mature into small, round, dry fruits that persist into winter. Their seeds provide a valuable food source to many marsh birds and their large, brushy branches offer valuable cover and king-tide refuges for those same saltmarsh songbirds.

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