Native Plant Highlight – Buttonbush

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Green plant with white and green bloomsButtonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is a deciduous native plant that can be found in all parts of North Carolina. It is usually found as a small shrub up to 12’ tall and 8’ wide, but can grow to 20’ tall. It likes soils that are consistently moist to wet and prefers full to part sun. It is multi-stemmed with a rounded to irregular crown and does not require a lot of pruning.The buttonbush flower appears June to September and when you look closely is reminds you of a pincushion because its round flower cluster has many protruding styles. The fruit is reddish-brown, showy, and persists into winter. 

Green Plant with white flowersThe small white fragrant flowers attract many types of pollinators and the seed attracts birds and mammals. When planted in less than full sun, flowers will not be as abundant. You can use this plant to help control erosion in wet areas. It also works well in a rain or water garden, at the edge of a pond or along a stream, and in areas with poor drainage. Rain gardens experience periodic flooding as well as dry conditions, so once established this plant will tolerant some dry conditions. I had three in my previous garden planted in an area that was not consistently moist, but had a good layer of organic mulch and they performed well for me.

Buttonbush has no major insect or disease problems so would be a great addition to your garden if you have the proper conditions. It has the added benefit of providing food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife which is so important these days. The Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County usually have this as one of the small bare-root native plants they offer at their February Plant Sale, so mark your calendars for February 26, 2022. Sign up for the monthly e-newsletter, We Garden Union County, to learn about Plant Sales, Educational Programs, and Community Events, check out the Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Union County website.