Common Buttonbush


Many flower heads form a pattern of delight…worth looking into.

The Common Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis, likes the moist soils found around Cypress swamps, ponds, lakes, ditches and culverts. This woody shrub can grow to ten feet in height and become a small tree. The bark is a dark grey with splotches of white. Branches arch and twist in different directions. Elliptical to ovate leaves with smooth margins appear in pairs along the branches. Venation is deeply impressed into the leaves.
White flower heads are attached to branches by a long stalk. Spherical flower heads look something like a golf ball 1 ½ inches in diameter. The heads consist of at least 50 tiny tubular florets with four white petals. Each flower has a single stamen with a yellow pollen bearing anthers. In time, the stamens drop off and from the flower tube a large female style with a sticky stigma at its tip grow outward. The flower head changes from what looks like an all male flower to an all female flower. This is what I thought when I first saw this species. Research showed that this is not the case. The flowers are bisexual.
The specimen in the picture was found growing in a ditch in the Estero Bay Buffer Preserve.

Dorothy Rodwell