Please submit a search term.

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Common Name(s):
Native Plants, Shrubs

Cephalanthus occidentalis, commonly called the Buttonbush is a somewhat coarse, deciduous shrub with an open-rounded habit that typically grows 6-12’ (infrequently to 20’) tall. Its bark is thin and smooth on young trees.  The bark becomes fissured and scaly as the tree ages.

It is an attractive deciduous native shrub in the Rubiaceae family.  It grows well in wet sites including flooded areas and is effective in helping stop erosion.  It is frequently found growing in low areas, thickets, river basions, pond edges, and swamps.  It would work well planted in a rain garden or in a pond or water garden. Is a spreading well branched shrub with yellow fall color.  The foliage is poisonous to livestock. Prune severely every year in the early spring for best flower production.  Its flowers are fragrant and followed by a showy fruit.

Regions: Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Late Summer  Fruit: Fall-Winter, Nutlets

Wildlife Value:  The Buttonbush is highly resistant to damage from deer.  Flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.  Songbirds and water fowl eat the seeds.


5-12 ft.
The Buttonbush has ovate to elliptic glossy bright green leaves (to 6” long) are in pairs or whorls. The leaves, which are opposite, emerge late in spring (May). Fall brings on yellow foliage.
The Buttonbush has tiny, tubular, 5-lobed, fragrant creamy white flowers appear in dense, spherical, long-stalked flower heads (to 1.5” diameter) in early to mid-summer. The long, projecting styles give the flower heads a distinctively pincushion-like appearance. The flower heads are very attractive to bees and butterflies. The flower heads mature into hard spherical ball-like fruits consisting of multiple tiny two-seeded nutlets. Fruiting heads usually persist throughout the winter.
5 to 10
The Buttonbush is easily grown in moist, humusy soils in full sun to part shade. It grows very well in wet soils, including flood conditions and shallow standing water. It will adapt to a wide range of soils except dry ones. Pruning is usually not necessary, but may be done in early spring to shape. If plants become unmanageable, however, they may be cut back near to the ground in early spring to revitalize.
Open, rounded
Sun; moist to wet soil; does not tolerate dry soil
Creamy white fragrant button like flowers in late spring to summer that darken to reddish brown in fall
4-8 ft.
riparian, obligate wetland, bees, fragrant, hummingbirds, swamp, showy, deciduous, fall color, birds, wildlife, pollinators, songbirds, erosion, tsc, showy fruit, water garden, rain garden, wet, pond, wet soil, ducks, fall interest, wet site

NCCES plant id: 457

Cephalanthus occidentalis Cephalanthus occidentalis
Bob Peterson, CC BY - 2.0
Cephalanthus occidentalis Cephalanthus occidentalis
mwms1916, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0