|Monday Melange: Buttonbush|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Monday, 25 June 2012|
Growing between USDA plant zones 5 and 11, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a medium to large-sized deciduous shrub, and a classic wetland indicator species thriving in moist to wet soils, but tolerating periods of drought. Its native habitat includes lowlands adjacent to lakes, streams, ponds, and other water bodies, and its range extends from Quebec south to Florida (and Cuba) and across the lower half of the US to California. It is typically absent from the plains states.
Also known as Honey Bells, Honeyball, and Button Willow, buttonbush is a member of the Madder plant family (Rubiaceae), the same plant family as coffee, gardenias, sweet woodruff, and partrideberry. The globe-shaped flower and seed heads its most attractive features. The fragrant creamy-white flower heads are composed of tubular flowers that bloom throughout the summer. The seed heads, which persist into winter, make an appearance in August and are composed of a cluster of nutlets. The foliage is glossy green. Preferring full sun, its habit is open and the shrub grows to a height of 6 to 12 feet, sometimes as high as 20 to 25 feet.
The flowers attract bees and butterflies and the seed heads are eaten by ducks and other waterfowl, but toxic to other animals, including humans. Buttonbush can be grown from seed in the spring or tip cuttings rooted in soil. A good choice for pond edges, swampy woodland edges, or stream banks, it can be pruned to maintain a more compact size if needed.
Photo source: academic.emporia.edu © J.S. Aber