Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Buttonbush is a large wetland shrub that produces many globular, white flowers with protruding pistils that give them a pincushion-like appearance. The fragrant flowers are about 2 inches in diameter. Buttonbush’s leaves are dark green, elliptic to ovate, and shiny on top, although pale underneath. They are arranged in opposite pairs or in whorls. In the fall, buttonbush produces hard, reddish-brown achenes.
Buttonbush occurs naturally in wetlands and along stream and river edges. The flowers attract many bees, butterflies and moths; the seeds are eaten by ducks and other birds; and the foliage is browsed by deer.
The genus Cephalanthus comes from the Greek words cephale, or “head,” and anthos, or “flower.”
Family: Rubiaceae (Madder family)
Native range: Nearly throughout
To see where natural populations of starry rosinweed have been vouchered, visit www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Wet sand, clay, loamy or mucky soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 5-20’ tall
Propagation: Seed, cuttings
Garden tips: Because it requires wet soil and its roots can withstand full submersion, buttonbush makes a great addition to pond and lake edges and wetland depressions. It can sometimes appear ragged, but can be pruned to encourage denser foliage. Seeds should be gathered in late summer or early fall before the flowerheads dry out. Note that buttonbush does have a tendency to colonize if not maintained.
Caution: The foliage is toxic to both humans and livestock.
Buttonbush is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.