Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush, Button-willow




  • hardy to zone 5
  • native throughout the eastern half of North America. It is also found from Texas through parts of New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Habit and Form

  • a deciduous shrub
  • 3' to 6' tall in the northern part of its range, but to 10' to 12' tall in the southern part of its range
  • shape is rounded and spreading
  • loose and somewhat open
  • multistemmed

Summer Foliage

  • deciduous simple leaves
  • very late to leaf out in the spring
  • opposite or whorled leaf arrangement
  • ovate leaves with acute bases and tips
  • 2" to 6" long and 1" to 3" wide
  • medium to dark green color
  • glossy

Autumn Foliage

  • usually greenish-yellow to yellow


  • in globular heads about 1" across
  • creamy white, somewhat fragrant
  • bloom time is June, July, August
  • moderately ornamental, but not exceptional


  • small nutlets are held in 1" diameter globular balls
  • before drying, color is green with red hilights
  • the fruits persist into the winter


  • coarse stems are somewhat 4-sides
  • color varies from gray-brown to shiny olive
  • prominent vertical lenticels are present on stems
  • older stems become reddish-brown and the lenticels enlarge into fissures


  • likes moisture
  • full sun to light shade
  • easily grown as long as the site is not dry
  • requires periodic rejuventation pruning
  • relatively pest free

Landscape Use

  • naturalistic areas
  • water's edge
  • shrub border


  • can be short-lived
  • can become coarse, sprawling and ungainly
  • needs periodic rejuvenation pruning to maintain form and vigor

ID Features

  • prominent lenticels on stems
  • stems coarse
  • simple, glossy leaves
  • creamy white flowers throughout the summer
  • terminal buds absent
  • lateral buds are sessile and found in depressions above each leaf scar
  • leaf scars are more or less circular
  • pith is solid and light brown


  • softwood or hardwood cuttings root easily
  • by seed is also easy without pretreatment


  • none are commonly available


© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database, http://hort.uconn.edu/plants, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.