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Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Regular price $34.99 USD
Regular price Sale price $34.99 USD
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Size

Sun/shade: Full sun to part shade

Soil moisture: Medium to wet

Height: 6-12'

Spread: 4-6'

Flowering period: July

Host plant for 25 caterpillar species

When buttonbush is in bloom, its branches are adorned with bright white spheres, like Christmas ornaments hung in July. The spheres are comprised of numerous tubular flowers, which persist for approximately 1 month. A source of both pollen and nectar, the flowers are highly attractive to many pollinators, especially butterflies. The close packing of the flowers allows butterflies to probe for nectar repeatedly before having to relocate. One species that seems to have a special fondness for buttonbush is the silver-spotted skipper. These stout-bodied, fast flyers have chocolate-brown wings with a large, silvery-white patch on each hindwing. As larvae, they have the interesting habit of creating “leaf shelters” – hideouts in the foliage of their host plant, made by gluing leaves together with silk. In addition to the silver-spotted skipper, other butterflies that are drawn to buttonbush include the zebra swallowtail, eastern tiger swallowtail, black swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, and Zabulon skipper.

In natural situations, buttonbush grows close to water, occupying areas such as river banks, pond margins, and swamps. In the garden, buttonbush will do well under full sun to partial shade and within soils of wet to average moisture. The most water-tolerant of native shrubs, buttonbush can even grow in shallow standing water. This trait makes buttonbush especially useful for planting in water gardens and other very wet areas, which can often be difficult to vegetate. It should be noted, though, that buttonbush does not require excessive wetness, and it will be quite happy in soils of average moisture. Buttonbush is a fairly large shrub (6-12’ tall), with an open, rounded form which can make it a nice centerpiece for a butterfly garden. It is not an aggressive plant and it demonstrates good resistance to deer browsing. If shaping of the buttonbush is desired, it may be pruned in early spring.

Photo by Pam Morgan.

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