Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bigleaf Marsh-elder - Iva frutescens   L.
Members of Asteraceae:
Members of Iva with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 6 » Order Asterales » Family Asteraceae
DistributionStrictly along the coast, present in nearly all counties that border salt and brackish water.

This is a strictly coastal species of wide north-south distribution. It ranges from ME to TX, and reaches southern FL.
AbundanceCommon to very common in its narrow habitat zone along and near the coast.
HabitatThis species is restricted to brackish marshes and drier edges of salt marshes. It is most numerous along drainage ditches through such marshes.
See also Habitat Account for Salt and Brackish Marshes
PhenologyBlooms and fruits from late August to November.
IdentificationThis is a deciduous shrub that grows to about 3-5 feet tall, usually in dense stands. It is easily identified by its strongly serrated, somewhat elliptical, opposite leaves that often grow or point upward. The flowers are small, greenish, and quite insignificant, growing densely in leaf axils near the branch tips. It can occasionally be confused with Borrichia frutescens, but that plant is mostly unbranched, has very thick leaves, and has a solitary and large yellow flower. This is one of the most characteristic of the few small shrub species that grow in nearly all stands of salt or brackish marshes along our coast.
Taxonomic CommentsNone at the species level. However, a few recent references list two varieties found in the state. The nominate variety -– var. frutescens, occurs from Dare County southward, whereas var. oraria is the northern form, and it grows south to Roanoke Island in Dare County. See Weakley (2018) for distinctions between these two varieties; leaves of var. oraria are distinctly wider (often 2x) than those of var. frutescens.

Other Common Name(s)Marsh Elder, Maritime Marsh-elder, Jesuit’s Bark (a colloquial name that provides no taxonomic or relationship information)
State RankS4 [S4S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpFACW link
USACE-empFACW link
County Map - click on a county to view source of record.
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B.A. SorrieCarolina Beach SP, shore by marina, late Sept 2017. New HanoverPhoto_natural

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