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TREES & Plants

Buttonbush

Buttonbush is great for naturalizing in wet areas and tolerates flooded areas for extended periods of time.  Its glossy green leaves and fragrant clusters of flowers in mid-summer are not its only appeal.  Native to the Chicago area and the eastern United States, buttonbush attracts more than 24 species of birds, as well as numerous species of butterflies. 

Botanical name: 
Cephalanthus occidentalis
All Common Names: 
Buttonbush
Family (English): 
Madder
Family (Botanic): 
Rubiaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (foliage falls off)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area
  • Illinois
  • North America
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 4
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Growth Rate: 
  • Medium
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun (4-6 hrs light daily)
Tolerances: 
  • Wet sites
  • Occasional flooding
  • Alkaline soil
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Wet soil
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • White
Size Range: 
  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Irregular
  • Upright
Landscape Uses: 
  • Windbreak
  • Specimen
  • Massing
Time of Year: 
  • Mid summer
  • Late summer
  • Early fall
  • Mid fall
  • Late fall
More Information: 

Size and Form

6 to 12 feet high and 12 to 18 feet wide; upright arching to irregular form

Tree & Plant Care

Excellent for for naturalizing or wet areas; avoid dry sites.
Long-lived
Prune in dormant season or early spring before new growth begins
.

Disease, pests and problems

Sensitive to drought and deep shade. 

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5
Found primarily in wet  or lowland areas.

Attracts birds & butterflies

A nectar source, attracting butterflies such as the tiger swallowtail, painted lady, and silver-spotted skipper.
Attracts over 24 species of birds, including robin, kingbird, and towhee.  The nutlets that persist through winter are appealing to the birds.

Bark color and texture 

Gray and somewhat peeling, develops furrows with age.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Whorled to opposite, leaves glossy green up to 4 inches long and 2 inches wide; entire marging; green in summer, turning to yellow in fall.
This plant has late emerging leaves.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small 1 inch round ball-like clusters of white flowers; clusters held on long stems.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Hard, 1 inch, ball-like fruit persist throughout winter. Reddish maturing to brown.