Buttonbush

The distinct and attractive flower of the buttonbush in full bloom

Hiking along the shores of Lake O’Donnell the other day I happened across a small tree/shrub in full bloom, its inflorescence a radiant white orb sending off pistils like rays of light. It was not a flower or a tree I had ever noticed before, and so I set out on a quest to identify it. Distinct in its spherical inflorescence and characterized by long, broad, opposite leaves and its shrub-like growth form, it did not take me long to identify the plant as the common buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis). Those of you spending much of your time in the interior forests and dry regions atop the plateau probably have had little interaction with these trees, as they are distinctly a wetland species, loving swampier areas, and can be found most commonly in this area along the margins of lakes. Along these lake margins the buttonbush is of particular ecological importance, as the spherical flowers lead to a dense ball of nutlets that are a sought-after food source for ducks and waterfowl. The plant is also planted for ornamental purposes and is a good honey plant.

 

 

notice the large, long leaves and red petioles

 

Another view, this time highlighting the opposite arrangement of the leaves along the stem

Buttonbush flower with a visiting pollinator, ensuring that there will be fruits for the birds and future generations of buttonbush to come

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