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Cephalanthus occidentalis

Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
sef-ah-LAN-thus ock-sih-den-TAH-liss
Description

Buttonbush is a deciduous shrub that may grow up to 10 feet tall. The leaves are opposite or whorled with smooth margins. The bark is thin and smooth on young trees. The bark becomes fissured and scaly as the tree ages. In late summer, small, white, tubular flowers occur in clusters at the end of slender 1- to 2-inch stalks. The shrub produces a round cluster of dark brown nutlets that mature in early fall.

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.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

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.

Site:  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.

 

Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#fragrant#hummingbirds#deciduous#fall color#birds#songbirds#water garden#rain garden#fall flowers#white flowers#wildlife plant#showy#yellow flowers#native shrub#riparian#tsc#ducks#fall interest#wetlands#erosion control#showy fruits#wet sites#food source#low flammability#NC native#swamps#ponds#fire resistant#pollinator plant#dendrology#hummingbird#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#butterfly#late summer flowers#brown flowers
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#bees#fragrant#hummingbirds#deciduous#fall color#birds#songbirds#water garden#rain garden#fall flowers#white flowers#wildlife plant#showy#yellow flowers#native shrub#riparian#tsc#ducks#fall interest#wetlands#erosion control#showy fruits#wet sites#food source#low flammability#NC native#swamps#ponds#fire resistant#pollinator plant#dendrology#hummingbird#food source fall#NC Native Pollinator Plant#butterfly#late summer flowers#brown flowers
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cephalanthus
    Species:
    occidentalis
    Family:
    Rubiaceae
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    East Canada, U.S.A to Central America, Cuba
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Flowers are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Songbirds and waterfowl eat seeds.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    fire in the landscape.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Rounded
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Nut
    Fruit Description:
    The flower heads mature into hard spherical ball-like fruits consisting of multiple tiny two-seeded nutlets. Fruiting heads usually persist throughout the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Description:
    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. Creamy white fragrant button like flowers in late spring to summer that darken to reddish brown in fall
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Theme:
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Wet Soil