Any field guide will tell you that button bush is common at the edges of all wet places, ponds, streams, rivers, etc. So I assiduously looked for it whenever I was near water, and that was a LOT.
I’d find areas thick with alder, or willow or rhododendron but I’d NEVER find buttonbush.
Finally found a plant at the water’s edge at Frances Slocum and my some miracle I got there yesterday when it was in bloom. I can die in piece now, having been to Crystal Lake and finding a blooming buttonbush the same week.
Buttonbush is deciduous shrub that belongs to the madder family. It originates from North America. Buttonbush can be found in wet habitats such as marshes, shorelines, ditches and areas near the rivers and pond. It grows on saturated, sandy, loamy and alluvial, slightly acidic soil, exposed to direct sunlight. Buttonbush is one of the first plants that will appear in areas destroyed by floods (pioneer species). It is often used in the projects of restoration of wetlands due to ability to survive in 3-feet deep water. Other than that, buttonbush is cultivated in ornamental purposes.
Interesting Buttonbush Facts:
Buttonbush is multi-branched, round-shaped shrub that can reach 6 to 12 feet in height.
Buttonbush produces oval or elliptical, dark green, glossy leaves. They are oppositely arranged on the branches or gathered in whorls. Buttonbush discards leaves at the beginning of the autumn.
Flowers of buttonbush are arranged in the form of dense, globular clusters that look like white fuzzy puffballs. Flowers develop at the end of the branches and they contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers).
Buttonbush blooms during the spring and summer (from June to September). Flowers are rich source of nectar which attracts bees, butterflies and moths, main pollinators of this plant.
Fruit of buttonbush is reddish-brown, round-shaped capsule filled with two seed. Fruit ripens during September and October.
Buttonbush propagates via seed and cuttings.
Scientific name of buttonbush is Cephalanthus. Name originates from two Greek words: “kephalos”, which means “head”, and “anthos”, which means “flower”, and it refers to the unusual, roundish shape of the flower heads.
Wood ducks, mallard ducks and geese like to eat seed of buttonbush. Twigs and leaves of buttonbush are important source of food for white-tailed deer.
Even though buttonbush represents valuable source of food for the wildlife, entire plant contains substances that can induce intoxication of cattle and humans.
Many songbirds build nest among dense branches of buttonbush. This plant also provides shelter for frogs, salamanders and insects.
Native Americans used inner bark of buttonbush to induce vomiting and cleansing of the body. Buttonbush was also used in treatment of kidney stones, sore eyes, rheumatism, headache, fever, bleeding, muscle inflammation and toothache.
First European settlers used bark of buttonbush in treatment of malaria (as a substitute for quinine, well-known and commonly prescribed drug for malaria).
Buttonbush can be cultivated in ornamental purposes, as a garden plant, near the ponds or as a part of water gardens.
Buttonbush is often cultivated near the ponds and streams because of its strong root system which prevents erosion of the soil.