Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens)

The Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens) is generally described as a perennial subshrub or forb/herb. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with an abuncance of conspicuous white fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens) will reach up to 9 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 9 feet.

The Jesuit's Bark (Frutescens) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below 2°F. has low tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

The marsh elder is normally associated with the mid to high marsh ecosystem, forming the last line of defense for shoreline erosion control. More recently this species has become associated with the lower marsh system by colonizing the dredged material resulting from construction of ditches and ponds for mosquito control.

Habitat: During extreme high tides, both small mammals and birds have been reported to use emergent vegetation as island of refuge. The marsh elder would readily serve this purpose. Marsh elder also provides suitable nesting habitats for various species of birds, like the red-winged blackbird and the marsh wren.

General Characteristics

Marsh elder is a perennial, deciduous shrub commonly growing between 3-8 feet high. The succulent leaves are egg-shaped to narrowly lance-shaped and oppositely arranged except for the upper reduced leaves. The lower leaves grow 4-6 inches long and 1-2 inches wide. Many greenish-white flower heads are arranged on terminal stems subtended by tiny green, leaf-like appendages. It is often confused with groundsel (Baccharis halimifolia) which exhibits succulent, coarsely-toothed leaves alternately arranged on the stem.

Required Growing Conditions

The marsh elder naturally grows in the mid to high salt marsh-estuarine area, back dunes, and on muddy sea shores from Massachusetts to Florida and Texas. Here it commonly occurs with groundsel tree to form the salt bush community. These plants usually only occur at elevations where their roots are not subject to prolonged water table flooding, such as the upland border of salt marshes. However, there are occasional exceptions where these associated plants are found at lower elevations associated with drainage ditches and canals.

Cultivation and Care

Marsh elder is generally established as 1 to 2 year old containerized plants, however 1 year bare root seedlings have been transplanted successfully in the spring. Since this plant has the ability to root from a dormant, unrooted cutting it may have application in soil bioengineering systems for tidal shoreline stabilization.

General Upkeep and Control

No specific management recommended.

Pests and Potential Problems None.

Environmental Concerns None.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) Plants are commercially available from specialized coastal and wetland plant nurseries.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Subshrub, Forb/herb
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Low
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 9
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature 2
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5–5.7 pH
Precipitation Range 35–35 inches/yr
Planting Density 1200–2700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 200 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA