The Marsh Fleabane

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HMMM… WhERE IS THAT “UNUSUAL” SCENT COMING FROM?

Marsh Fleabane is one of Clark County Wetlands Park’s most colorful (and pungent!) plants. The masses of showy purplish-pink flowers and the lovely pale pastel green foliage have noticeably strong, distinctive smells. For good measure, the leaves (especially when crushed) may smell quite different to different people. 

That is probably why Marsh Fleabane has so many common names, among them Scentsweet, Sourbush, Salt Marsh Fleabane, Cattle Tongue, Sweetscent, Stink Weed, and Shrubby Castorbush.

This plant of brackish marshes and coastal areas doesn’t mind clay soils and high salinity. It grows up to three feet tall from seed, and also spreads with underground rhizomes. Though limited to wet areas, it has a wide range, including across the United States from coast to coast, and south to the Caribbean Islands and northern South America.

The flowers have a very sweet scent and high nectar content. Many insects, including smaller moths, butterflies like Skippers, Blues, and Hairstreaks, native bees, and small flies visit for a meal. It can be fun (and educational) to sit near a blooming Marsh Fleabane with a butterfly guide and close-focus binoculars to watch the parade!

Marsh Fleabane, with its long summer through fall blooming season and numerous insect visitors, is a very good plant for color in a garden with damp areas, especially near ornamental ponds. It will also grow well in large containers.

Take a good sniff the next time you pass Marsh Fleabane along a Wetlands Park trail. Some sources have described the scent of the foliage as “refreshing,” “medicinal,” “strong,” “spicy,” “camphor-like,” “musky-sweet,” or “downright weird.” See what your nose thinks!

-By Chris Leavitt, Friends President; photo is also by Ms. Leavitt.

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