Ontario Trees & Shrubs website

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) Other common names: Common Buttonbush, Eastern Buttonbush, Honeyballs

Family: Bedstraw Family (Rubiaceae)

Distinctive features: Shrub; Wetland shrub. Distinctive globular flower and seed clusters.

Flowers: Summer;  White;  4 parts (petals);  White, tiny, in a globular cluster.

Leaves: Opposite/Whorled, Simple, Entire;  Opposite or in whorls of three.

Height: 3 m (9 ft)

Fruit/Seeds: Dark, in a globular cluster (resemble those of Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)).

Habitat: Wet Areas;  Wetlands. Will grow in other habitats if planted.

Books: Shrubs of Ontario: 423    Newcomb's Wildflower Guide: 164   

Native/Non-native: Native

Status: Common in wetlands.

Notes: Buttonbush is a swamp/marsh shrub. It likes to grow where there is water all or most of the year. Most people don't get to see this shrub because of this.

Origin and Meaning of Names:
 Scientific Name: occidentalis: western

Photographs: 145 photographs available, of which 12 are featured on this page. SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOGRAPHS.

Range Map is at the bottom of the page

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

A grove of Buttonbush in a marsh (or is this a "swamp" since it's covered by the shrub?), in June.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Closer view of the shrub, in June. Buttonbush ranges from 3-10 feet tall.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Another picture of the leaves. They are usually about 3-6" long and egg-shaped, pointed at the tip.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush leaves can also be very shiny.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

The underside of the leaves.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

What a "grove" of these shrubs looks like in winter.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

It's real tough to get through a grove of these shrubs, winter or summer, as seen in this photo.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush flowers, which give this its common name.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

And, a whole marsh/swamp of Buttonbush in flower.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush leaves are in opposite pairs or in whorls of three (see next photo). The only other Ontario tree/shrub that has leaves in whorls of three is the Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa) tree.

Range map for Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

PLEASE NOTE: A coloured Province or State means this species occurs somewhere in that Province/State.
The entire Province/State is coloured, regardless of where in that Province/State it occurs.

(Range map provided courtesy of the USDA website and is displayed here in accordance with their Policies)