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Buttonbush, Common Buttonbush, Button Ball, Riverbush, Honey-bells, Button Willow - Cephalanthus occidentalis


Family: Rubiaceae Madder family Genus Common Name: Buttonbush Native Status: Native
Cephalanthus occidentalis - Buttonbush, Common Buttonbush, Button Ball, Riverbush, Honey-bells, Button Willow. While there are 17 species in the Cephalanthus genus worldwide, there are only two species of Buttonbush found in the United States. Mexican Buttonbush, Cephalanthus salicifolius is native to a couple of the southernmost counties in Texas, the only state in the U.S. in which it is found. The species presented here, Common Buttonbush - Cephalanthus occidentalis - is found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, as far west as Nebraska and Texas, and is also found in Arizona and California. (I find it curious that it makes the jump from Texas to Arizona, but is apparently not found in New Mexico, which lies between those two states.) Some authorities recognize two varieties, with the western variety known as California Buttonbush.

Common Buttonbush is a wetland shrub or small tree which can grow to nearly 10 feet tall along the banks of streams, ponds, lakes, marshes, and in other wetland areas. The bark contains a poison that will cause vomiting, paralysis, and convulsions if eaten.

Found in:
AL, AR, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

Distribution of Cephalanthus occidentalis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2009. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 25 Apr 2014). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.

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Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence is a dense sphere of many small white tubular flowers with 4-lobed corollas and a significantly exserted style. The style is terminated with a more or less spherical stigma which is usually covered with yellow pollen.
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The young stems of Buttonbush are red and glabrous.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Buttonbush is usually a shrub but occasionally a small tree, growing usually to less than 10 feet tall.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves are opposite or occasionally in whorls of three.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Pre-efflorescence
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Site: Hamilton County, TN Date: 2012-August-19Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Post-efflorescence
Click on the photo for a larger image
Cephalanthus occidentalis

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2014
Photographs Copyrighted by the named photographer