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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

This native woody shrub is usually 3-8' tall, but sometimes reaches 20' and achieves the stature of a small tree. It branches frequently and has a bushy appearance. The lower branches become woody and brown, while new growth is green or red. The leaves are usually opposite, although sometimes they occur in whorls of 3. They are up to 6" long and 2½" across, ovate or ovate-oblong in shape, and have slender petioles, smooth margins, and a glossy upper surface. In the typical variety of this species (described here), both the young branches and leaves are hairless, although there exists a less common variety of Buttonbush with pubescent branches and leaves. From 1-3 spherical flowerheads occur on a flowering stalk that branches when more than a single flowerhead occurs. Some of the upper branches may terminate with these flowerheads, or a flowering stalk may occur from the axils of the leaves. Each mature flowerhead is about 1–1½" across, and is covered all around with small white or cream flowers. Each flower has a narrow corolla about 1/3" long, with 4 small spreading lobes at its apex. There are 4 short stamens and a single white style that is quite long and undivided, projecting beyond the corolla. This latter characteristic provides the flowerhead with a starburst appearance. The small green calyx is tubular with 4 small teeth. It is about ¼" in length. The blooming period occurs during the summer (usually mid-summer) and lasts about 1 month. The flowers are sweetly fragrant. Each flower is replaced by a fruit that is obpyramidal (like a narrow upside-down pyramid). It contains 2 cells, each containing a single seed (occasionally, one of the cells is empty). The root system consists of a woody taproot.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Comments

Buttonbush has attractive foliage and flowers. It is occasionally planted as an ornamental shrub. Because of the unique flowers, it is easy to identify in the field.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

General: Madder Family (Rubiaceae). Common buttonbush is a warm-season shrub or small tree that reaches 6 m in height at maturity. Stem bases are swollen. Young twigs are green, 4-sided with elongated lenticels, and turn brown and scaly upon maturation. Leaves are opposite or whorled, lance-shaped, 18 cm long and 7.5 cm wide, glossy dark green, and emerge in May. Flowers are tubular, 4- to 5-lobed, white to reddish, 4 cm across, and form in dense clusters at the ends of the branches. Long styles give flowers a pincushion appearance. The fruit are ball-like and contain 2-seeded nutlets. Common buttonbush blooms in June through September and sets fruit in September and October.

Key characteristics of common buttonbush are its pincushion flower heads, elongated lenticels, and swollen stem bases. It is also the only wetland shrub that has whorled leaves and spherical-shaped flowers.

Distribution: Common buttonbush is native to North America. It occurs from Nova Scotia to Ontario, south through Florida, and west to the eastern Great Plains with scattered populations in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and northern Mexico. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site (http://plants.usda.gov).

Habitat: Common buttonbush is a wetland shrub common in swamps, floodplains, marshes, bogs, ditches that are underwater for part of the year, and alluvial plains with intermittent flooding. It is present in riparian and wetland communities and is associated with plants like American beech, red maple, sugar maple, black oak, pin oak, Nyssa species, bald cypress, southern bayberry, red bay, holly, dogberry, grape, viburnum, poison ivy, Indian grass, big bluestem, switchgrass, and sedges.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Alternative names

Button ball, button willow, buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis var. californicus, Cephalanthus occidentalis var. pubescens, honey-bells, riverbush.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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Buttonbush extends from southern Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and
Ontario south through southern Florida and west through the eastern
half of the Great Plains States [8,16]. Scattered populations exist in
New Mexico, Arizona, and the central valley of California [28]. The
variety californicus is found in California; the variety pubescens is
found from southeast Virginia to Georgia and Texas, southern Ontario,
Indiana, Illinois, and Oklahoma [8]. Distribution of the variety
angustifolius was not listed.
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 16. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1976. Atlas of United States trees. Volume 3. Minor western hardwoods. Misc. Publ. 1314. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 13 p. 290 maps. [10430]

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Buttonbush occurs in most areas of Illinois, except for a few counties in the NW (see Distribution Map). It is occasional to locally common. Habitats include openings in floodplain forests, wet thickets, shrubby swamps, wet depressions in black soil prairies, marshes, bogs, seeps, and borders of rivers and small lakes. This shrub can form extensive colonies at some locations.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

3 Southern Pacific Border
7 Lower Basin and Range
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains

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Occurrence in North America

AL AZ AR CA CT DE FL GA IL IN
IA KS KY LA ME MA MI MN MS MO
NE NH NJ NM NC OH OK PA RI SC
TN TX VT VA WV WI NB NS ON PQ
MEXICO

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cephalanthus occidentalis var. californicus Benth.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cephalanthus occidentalis var. pubescens Raf.:
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Cephalanthus occidentalis L.:
Belize (Mesoamerica)
Canada (North America)
China (Asia)
Guatemala (Mesoamerica)
Honduras (Mesoamerica)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)
Caribbean (Caribbean)
Taiwan (Asia)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Adaptation

The USDA hardiness zones for common buttonbush are 5 through 9. It is a pioneer species in flooded areas and colonizes lowland marsh communities dominated by hardstem bulrush. It grows well in sandy, loamy soils or alluvial soils with sand or silt surfaces. It favors acidic or neutral soils and is intolerant of alkalinity. It prefers medium to wet moisture levels and is intolerant of dry soils. Abundance increases with increased water levels and with increased light levels. Its distribution is limited to regions that have a mean July temperature of 20oC.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: shrub, tree, warm-season

Buttonbush is a deciduous, warm-season, tall shrub or small tree that
can reach up to 18 feet (6 m) in height [28]. Its base is often
swollen. Branches are usually green when young but turn brown at
maturity. Buttonbush has opposite, lanceolate-oblong leaves about 7
inches (18 cm) long and 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide [24]. Tiny, white
flowers occur in dense, spherical clusters at the ends of the branches.
Fruits are a round cluster of brown, cone-shaped nutlets. The variety
angustifolius usually has leaves in whorls of threes [28]. The variety
pubescens has hairs on the lower leaf surfaces [8]. The variety
californicus has more lanceolate leaves than the other two varieties
[21].
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 21. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees & shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]
  • 24. Soper, James H.; Heimburger, Margaret L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Life Sciences Misc. Publ. Toronto, ON: Royal Ontario Museum. 495 p. [12907]

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Type Information

Type fragment for Cephalanthus occidentalis f. lanceolatus Fernald
Catalog Number: US 1971681
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): M. L. Fernald
Year Collected: 1946
Locality: Shore of Dardens Pond north of Courtland., Southampton, Virginia, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Fernald, M. L. 1947. Rhodora. 49: 181.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Isosyntype for Cephalanthus hansenii Wernham
Catalog Number: US 338113
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of original publication
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): G. Hansen
Year Collected: 1895
Locality: Crow Point., Amador, California, United States, North America
Elevation (m): 1500 to 1500
  • Isosyntype: Wernham, H. F. 1917. J. Bot. 55: 176.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

Buttonbush grows along swamps, marshes, bogs, ditches, and other
riparian areas that are inundated for at least part of the year [8,24].
It grows in alluvial plains that experience intermittant flooding, but
can be damaged by spring flooding [12,20,23]. Faber-Langendoen and
Maycock [7] reported that buttonbush was very tolerant of flooding and
that its abundance increased with increasing water depth. These authors
also reported an increase in buttonbush with an increase in light level.
Elevational and geographical distribution of buttonbush may be limited
by mean July temperatures of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 deg C) [13].
Elevations have been reported at 635 feet (193 m) in Illinois [1] and
between 60 and 160 feet (22-50 m) in Quebec [27]. Buttonbush was found
growing in sandy, loamy sandy, or alluvial soil with a sandy or silty
surface in Quebec [27].

Common associates of buttonbush include American beech (Fagus
grandifolia), red maple (Acer rubrum), sugar maple (A. saccharum), ash
(Fraxinus spp.), black oak (Quercus velutina), pin oak (Q. palustris),
tupelo and gum (Nyssa spp.), baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), southern
bayberry (Myrica cerifera), redbay (Persea palustris), holly (Ilex
spp.), dogberry (Ribes cynosbati), grape (Vitis spp.), viburnum
(Viburnum spp.), poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), indiangrass
(Sorgastrom nutans), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), switchgrass
(Panicum virgatum), and sedge (Carex spp.) [5,7,11].
  • 1. Bell, David T. 1974. Tree stratum composition and distribution in the streamside forest. American Midland Naturalist. 92(1): 35-46. [10410]
  • 5. Cink, Calvin L.; Lowther, Peter E. 1989. Breeding bird populations of a floodplain tallgrass prairie in Kansas. In: Bragg, Thomas B.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 259-262. [14059]
  • 7. Faber-Langendoen, Don; Maycock, Paul F. 1989. Community patterns and environmental gradients of buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, ponds in lowland forests of southern Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 103(4): 479-485. [13458]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 11. Gunderson, Lance H. 1984. Regeneration of cypress in logged and burned strands at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida. In: Ewel, Katherine Carter; Odum, Howard T., eds. Cypress swamps. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press: 349-357. [14857]
  • 12. Holland, Marjorie M.; Burk, C. John. 1990. The marsh vegetation of three Connecticut River oxbows: a ten-year comparison. Rhodora. 92(871): 166-204. [14521]
  • 13. Holstein, Glen. 1984. California riparian forests: deciduous islands in an evergreen sea. In: Warner, Richard E.; Hendrix, Kathleen M., eds. California riparian systems: Ecology, conservation, and productive management: Proceedings of a conference; 1981 September 17-19; Davis, CA. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 2-22. [5830]
  • 20. Penfound, William T. 1952. Southern swamps and marshes. The Botanical Review. 18: 413-446. [11477]
  • 23. Roland, A. E. 1991. Coastal-plain plants in inland Nova Scotia. Rhodora. 93(875): 291-298. [16490]
  • 24. Soper, James H.; Heimburger, Margaret L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Life Sciences Misc. Publ. Toronto, ON: Royal Ontario Museum. 495 p. [12907]
  • 27. Vincent, Gilles; Bergeron, Yves; Meilleur, Alain. 1986. Plant community pattern analysis: a cartographic approach applied in the Lac des Deux-Montagnes area (Quebec). Canadian Journal of Botany. 64: 326-335. [16948]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the term: shrub

Buttonbush is a wetland shrub common to most swamps and floodplains of
eastern and southern North America [8,28]. It is listed as a component
of the following community types:

Area Classification Authority

CA: Sacramento Valley riparian cts Conard & others 1977
United States wetland cts Cowardin & others 1979
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: swamp

14 Northern pin oak
16 Aspen
19 Grey birch - red maple
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
43 Bear oak
63 Cottonwood
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweet gum
74 Cabbage palmetto
87 Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
100 Pondcypress
101 Baldcypress
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
105 Tropical hardwoods
106 Mangrove
108 Red maple
235 Cottonwood - willow

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K030 California oakwoods
K049 Tule marshes
K080 Marl - Everglades
K091 Cypress savanna
K092 Everglades
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K105 Mangrove
K106 Northern hardwoods
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
K114 Pocosin

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands

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Range and Habitat in Illinois

Buttonbush occurs in most areas of Illinois, except for a few counties in the NW (see Distribution Map). It is occasional to locally common. Habitats include openings in floodplain forests, wet thickets, shrubby swamps, wet depressions in black soil prairies, marshes, bogs, seeps, and borders of rivers and small lakes. This shrub can form extensive colonies at some locations.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Associations

Flower-Visiting Insects of Buttonbush in Illinois

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush)
(bees usually suck nectar and less often collect pollen; beetles feed on pollen and are non-pollinating; other insects suck nectar; one observation is from Estes & Thorp as indicated below, otherwise observations are from Robertson)

Bees (long-tongued)
Apidae (Apinae): Apis mellifera sn fq; Apidae (Bombini): Bombus auricomus sn fq, Bombus bimaculatus sn, Bombus fraternus sn, Bombus griseocallis sn fq, Bombus impatiens sn cp fq, Bombus pensylvanica sn cp fq, Psithyrus variabilis sn; Anthophoridae (Ceratinini): Ceratina dupla dupla sn; Anthophoridae (Emphorini): Ptilothrix bombiformis sn; Anthophoridae (Epeolini): Triepeolus concavus sn, Triepeolus lunatus concolor sn fq, Triepeolus lunatus lunatus sn; Anthophoridae (Eucerini): Florilegus condigna sn, Melissodes bimaculata bimaculata sn, Melissodes communis sn cp, Melissodes tepaneca sn, Peponapis pruinosa pruinosa sn, Svastra obliqua obliqua sn cp fq; Megachilidae (Megachilini): Megachile brevis brevis sn fq, Megachile inimica sayi sn, Megachile mendica cp, Megachile parallela parallela sn, Megachile petulans sn

Bees (short-tongued)
Halictidae (Halictinae): Agapostemon sericea sn, Agapostemon texanus texanus sn, Agapostemon virescens sn, Halictus ligatus sn, Halictus rubicunda sn, Lasioglossum lustrans sn np (ET); Colletidae (Hylaeinae): Hylaeus affinis cp np

Wasps
Sphecidae (Sphecinae): Ammophila nigricans; Tiphiidae: Myzinum quinqecincta; Pompilidae: Entypus fulvicornis; Vespidae (Eumeninae): Euodynerus annulatus

Flies
Syrphidae: Eristalis stipator, Eristalis tenax fq, Sphaerophoria contiqua, Syritta pipiens, Volucella bombylans; Conopidae: Physocephala texana, Physocephala tibialis, Physoconops brachyrhynchus; Muscidae: Musca domestica

Butterflies
Nymphalidae: Cercyonis pegala alope, Danaus plexippus fq, Limenitis archippus, Phyciodes tharos fq, Speyeria cybele, Vanessa atalanta fq, Vanessa cardui, Vanessa virginiensis; Lycaenidae: Celastrina argiolus, Everes comyntas, Lycaena hyllus fq, Strymon melinus; Papilionidae: Battus philenor, Papilio polyxenes asterias fq, Papilio troilus; Pieridae: Colias cesonia, Colias philodice, Pieris rapae, Pontia protodice fq

Skippers
Hesperiidae: Anatrytone logan, Atalopedes campestris, Epargyreus clarus fq, Erynnis juvenalis fq, Poanes zabulon, Polites peckius, Polites themistocles fq, Thorybes bathyllus

Moths
Arctiidae: Utetheisa bella; Ctenuchidae: Cisseps fulvicollis

Beetles
Coccinellidae: Hippodamia convergens fp np; Scarabaeidae: Trichiotinus piger fp np

Plant Bugs
Lygaeidae: Oncopeltus fasciatus

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Faunal Associations

The nectar of the flowers attracts long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers primarily. Less typical insect visitors of the flowers include short-tongued bees, wasps, flies, and beetles. Some of the insects in this latter group are attracted to the pollen. The foliage is eaten by the caterpillars of Darapsa versicolor (Hydrangea Sphinx). The seeds are occasionally eaten by ducks, geese, and rails, particularly Mallard Ducks. The branches, twigs, or foliage are eaten occasionally by the White-Tailed Deer and beavers. However, livestock that consume the foliage can be poisoned. Apparently, the seeds of Buttonbush are more extensively used by waterfowl in the southern Mississippi valley than in Illinois.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the term: shrubs

In Southern marshlands, where grasses are thick and impenetrable, fire
can reduce grass densities and release nutrients, which enhances
establishment of shrubs such as buttonbush [29].
  • 29. Vogl, Richard J. 1973. Effects of fire on the plants and animals of a Florida wetland. American Midland Naturalist. 89: 334-347. [14580]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: peat, shrub

Buttonbush can become the dominant shrub in grassy, wetland areas of the
South excluded from fire [14]. However, when these areas are burned
buttonbush has been observed sprouting within a few months following
fire [9,11,29]. Frequent fires in harwood swamps of the South often
promote willow sprouting and, occasionally, buttonbush sprouting [30].

Following 2 years of drought, a severe fire in an area of the Okefenokee
Swamp that supported buttonbush killed most of the trees and consumed a
1-inch (2.45 cm) layer of peat [34]. Buttonbush resprouted 7 years
later.
  • 9. Forthman, Carol Ann. 1973. The effects of prescribed burning on sawgrass. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami. 83 p. Thesis. [14571]
  • 11. Gunderson, Lance H. 1984. Regeneration of cypress in logged and burned strands at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida. In: Ewel, Katherine Carter; Odum, Howard T., eds. Cypress swamps. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press: 349-357. [14857]
  • 14. Huffman, Jean M.; Blanchard, S. W. 1991. Changes in woody vegetation in Florida dry prairie and wetlands during a period of fire exclusion, and after dry-growing-season fire. In: Nodvin, Stephen C.; Waldrop, Thomas A., eds. Fire and the environment: ecological and cultural perspectives: Proceedings of an international symposium; 1990 March 20-24; Knoxville, TN. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-69. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station: 75-83. [16636]
  • 29. Vogl, Richard J. 1973. Effects of fire on the plants and animals of a Florida wetland. American Midland Naturalist. 89: 334-347. [14580]
  • 30. Wade, Dale; Ewel, John; Hofstetter, Ronald. 1980. Fire in South Florida ecosystems. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-17. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 125 p. [10362]
  • 34. Cypert, Eugene. 1973. Plant succession on burned areas in Okefenokee Swamp following the fires of 1954 and 1955. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1972 June 8-9; Lubbock, TX. Number 12. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 199-217. [8467]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the term: shrubs

Because the base of buttonbush shrubs are partially submerged during
most of the year, fire may not be a threat.

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Successional Status

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Buttonbush is a pioneer species in frequently flooded baldcypress/water
tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) swamps, establishing on rotting logs and stumps
[35]. In the Sacremento Valley, buttonbush/dogwood (Corunus spp.)
communities are succeeded by white alder (Alnus rhombifolia)/willow
(Salix spp.)/Oregon ash (Fraxinus latifolia) and eventually cottonwood
(Populus spp.) forests [36]. Buttonbush also colonizes lowland marsh
communities dominated by hardstem bulrush (Scirpus acutus).
  • 35. Conner, William H.; Gosselink, James G.; Parrondo, Roland T. 1981. Comparison of the vegetation of three Louisiana swamp sites with different flooding regimes. American Journal of Botany. 68(3): 320-331. [16947]
  • 36. Eleuterius, Lionel N. 1975. The life history of the salt marsh rush, Juncus roemerianus. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club. 102(3): 135-140. [16946]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the terms: shrub, tree

Tree, Shrub

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Regeneration Processes

Buttonbush regenerates by seed. Seed is best collected when the nutlets
have turned reddish-brown, and averages about 134,000 per pound
(60,702/kg) [31]. Pretreatment of seeds is unnecessary [3]. Seeds have
a low germination rate [28]. Buttonbush can also be propagated by
planting cuttings in moist, sandy soil.
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 3. Bonner, F. T. 1974. Cephalanthus occidentalis L. common buttonbush. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., technical coordinator. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 301-302. [7580]
  • 31. Young, James A.; Young, Cheryl G. 1986. Collecting, processing and germinating seeds of wildland plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 236 p. [12232]

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Plant Response to Fire

Buttonbush resprouts following fire [9,11].
  • 9. Forthman, Carol Ann. 1973. The effects of prescribed burning on sawgrass. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami. 83 p. Thesis. [14571]
  • 11. Gunderson, Lance H. 1984. Regeneration of cypress in logged and burned strands at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Florida. In: Ewel, Katherine Carter; Odum, Howard T., eds. Cypress swamps. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press: 349-357. [14857]

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Post-fire Regeneration

off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Buttonbush flowers between June and September and produces fruit between
September and October [8,24,28].
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 24. Soper, James H.; Heimburger, Margaret L. 1982. Shrubs of Ontario. Life Sciences Misc. Publ. Toronto, ON: Royal Ontario Museum. 495 p. [12907]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Cephalanthus occidentalis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Cephalanthus occidentalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the terms: natural, shrubs

Much of buttonbush's natural habitat in California is being destroyed by
agriculture and water development projects; buttonbush is not a good
colonizer of manmade waterways [13]. Buttonbush is moderately
susceptible to herbicides; if shrubs become too thick, they can be
reduced by cutting in the fall during low water [4,18].
  • 4. Bovey, Rodney W. 1977. Response of selected woody plants in the United States to herbicides. Agric. Handb. 493. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 101 p. [8899]
  • 13. Holstein, Glen. 1984. California riparian forests: deciduous islands in an evergreen sea. In: Warner, Richard E.; Hendrix, Kathleen M., eds. California riparian systems: Ecology, conservation, and productive management: Proceedings of a conference; 1981 September 17-19; Davis, CA. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press: 2-22. [5830]
  • 18. Martin, Alex C.; Erickson, Ray C.; Steenis, John H. 1957. Improving duck marshes by weed control. Circular 19 (Revised). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. 60 p. [16324]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

In 1996, the Big Flats Plant Materials Center released the ‘Keystone’ common buttonbush cultivar for use in wetland and riparian area restoration for the entire common buttonbush range. ‘Keystone’ was selected for its increased plant vigor, stem and foliar abundance, and increased basal area.

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government.” The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

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Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Seed production

Common buttonbush seeds are ready for collection in the fall when they have turned reddish-brown. No pretreatment is necessary. Sow seeds into moist, humus soils in full sun or part shade.

Cuttings will produce roots in moist sandy soil. Unrooted cuttings can be pushed into moist soil along shorelines and will establish on their own.

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Common buttonbush does not colonize along manmade waterways. It is moderately susceptible to herbicides and can be damaged by springtime flooding. Pruning is not necessary for control of spread but can be done in the spring to shape the plant. Dense shrubs can be cut back in the fall, when water levels are low, to maintain manageability.

It has been found in the South that common buttonbush remains dominant in the absence of fire. It will resprout in a few months following low-intensity burns in wet woodlands. Frequent fires will promote occasional sprouting, but common buttonbush is slow to resprout (7 years) following high-intensity burns. In the southern marshlands, fire decreases grass densities, releasing nutrients for common buttonbush, and increasing growth.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

The bark of buttonbush was traditionally used for making laxatives, and
for curing skin, bronchial, and venereal diseases [28]. Caution must be
used, however, because the bark contains cephalathin, a poison that can
induce vomitting, paralysis, and convulsions.
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Many species of waterfowl and shorebirds eat buttonbush seeds [18,28].
White-tailed deer use of buttonbush browse varies from light in
Pennsyvania [32] to heavy in Nova Scotia [23]. Bees use buttonbush to
produce honey [31].
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 18. Martin, Alex C.; Erickson, Ray C.; Steenis, John H. 1957. Improving duck marshes by weed control. Circular 19 (Revised). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. 60 p. [16324]
  • 23. Roland, A. E. 1991. Coastal-plain plants in inland Nova Scotia. Rhodora. 93(875): 291-298. [16490]
  • 31. Young, James A.; Young, Cheryl G. 1986. Collecting, processing and germinating seeds of wildland plants. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 236 p. [12232]
  • 32. Bramble, W. C.; Goddard, M. K. 1943. Seasonal browsing of woody plants by white-tailed deer in the bear oak forest type. Journal of Forestry. 41(7): 471-475. [3298]

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Cultivation

The preference is full or partial sun, wet to moist conditions, and a fertile soil with high organic content. This shrub is semi-aquatic, and can withstand flooded conditions for long periods of time. It will also grow in soil that is consistently moist, rather than wet, but will be smaller in size.
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Cover Value

Buttonbush is important to wood ducks for brood rearing and hiding [19].
  • 19. Parr, Delbert E.; Scott, M. Douglas; Kennedy, David D. 1979. Autumn movements and habitat use by wood ducks in southern Illinois. Journal of Wildlife Management. 43(1): 102-108. [13765]

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Uses

Erosion control: Common buttonbush is used for erosion control along shorelines. It forms dense stands and its swollen plant base stabilizes the plant.

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used common buttonbush medicinally. Decoctions of the bark were used as washes for sore eyes, antidiarrheal agents, anti-inflammation and rheumatism medications, skin astringents, headache and fever relievers, and venereal disease remedies. The bark was also chewed to relieve toothaches. Roots were used for muscle inflammation and as blood medicines.

Ornamental: Showy flowers and fruit make common buttonbush a popular choice for use in native plant gardens, shrub borders, and along pond shores and water gardens. The persistent fruits give the plant some winter interest.

Wildlife: Waterfowl and shorebirds consume the seeds of common buttonbush. White-tailed deer browse foliage in the northeastern United States. Wood ducks use the plant’s structure for protection of brooding nests. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are attracted to common buttonbush for its nectar. Bees use it to produce honey.

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Risks

Warning

WARNING: Common buttonbush contains the poison CEPHALATHIN. Cephalathin will induce vomiting, paralysis, and convulsions if ingested.
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Wikipedia

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Cephalanthus occidentalis is a species of flowering plant in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, that is native to eastern and southern North America. Common names include Buttonbush, Common Buttonbush, Button-willow and Honey-bells.

Description[edit]

C. occidentalis is a deciduous shrub or small tree that averages 1–3 m (3.3–9.8 ft) in height, but can reach 6 m (20 ft). The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three, elliptic to ovate, 7–18 cm (2.8–7.1 in) long and 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) broad, with a smooth edge and a short petiole. The flowers are arranged in a dense spherical inflorescence 2–3.5 cm (0.79–1.38 in) in diameter on a short peduncle. Each flower has a fused white to pale yellow four-lobed corolla forming a long slender tube connecting to the sepals. The stigma protrudes slightly from the corolla. The fruit is a spherical cluster of achenes (nutlets).[2]

Taxonomy[edit]

There are two varieties, not considered distinct by all authorities:

Habitat[edit]

Buttonbush is a common shrub of many wetland habitats in its range, including swamps, floodplains, mangrove, pocosin, riparian zones, and moist forest understory.[3] It is a member of the flora in the Everglades.[3]

Ecology[edit]

Waterfowl and other birds eat the seeds. Wood Ducks utilize the plant as nest protection. Deer browse the foliage. Insects and hummingbirds take the nectar, with bees using it to make honey.[3][4]

Distribution[edit]

The species occurs in eastern North America with disjunct populations occurring in the west. In Canada, it occurs from southern Ontario and Quebec east to New Brunswick. Besides the eastern United States, and eastern regions of the Midwest, notable areas range into Arizona, the Mogollon Rim, and other mountain ranges; in California, the entire San Joaquin Valley[5] West of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, only western Texas, Arizona, and California find C. occidentalis.

Uses[edit]

Medicinal[edit]

C. occidentalis has a number of historical medicinal uses, but it is also toxic due to the presence of cephalathin.[3][4]

Cultivation[edit]

Buttonbush is cultivated as an ornamental plant for a nectar source or 'honey plant' and for aesthetics in gardens and native plant landscapes, and is planted on slopes to help control erosion.[6] Buttonbush is a suitable shrub for butterfly gardens.

San Joaquin Valley landmark tree[edit]

The town of Buttonwillow, California was named for the Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). A lone buttonbush served as a landmark on an old trans-San Joaquin Valley trail, and was used by ancient Yokut Indians as a meeting place. It later became the site of settlers' stock rodeos. This buttonbush tree is listed as California Historical Landmark No. 492, and is now known as the "Buttonwillow Tree."

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cephalanthus occidentalis L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 1994-08-23. Retrieved 2010-01-04. 
  2. ^ "Cephalanthus occidentalis L. buttonbush" (PDF). Wildland Shrubs of the United States and its Territories: Thamnic Descriptions. United States Forest Service. Retrieved 2009-09-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Cephalanthus occidentalis". Fire Effects Information System. United States Forest Service. 
  4. ^ a b "Common Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis L." (PDF). Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Guide. United States Department of Agriculture. 
  5. ^ Little. Atlas of United States Trees, Volume 3, Minor Western Hardwoods, Little, Elbert L, 1976, US Government Printing Office. Library of Congress No. 79-653298. Map 34-NW, Map 34-SW, Cephalanthus occidentalis.
  6. ^ O'Sullivan, Penelope (2007). The Homeowner's Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook: The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting, and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants. Storey Publishing. p. 197. ISBN 978-1-58017-571-5. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

buttonbush
common buttonbush
button willow
riverbush
buttonball

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The currently accepted scientific name for buttonbush is Cephalanthus
occidentalis L. (Rubiaceae) [8]. Recognized varieties are as follows
[8,21,28]:
C. occidentalis var. pubescens (Raf.)
C. occidentalis var. californicus (Benth.)
C. occidentalis var. angustifolius (Dippel)
  • 28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
  • 8. Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 21. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees & shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]

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