Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis)

The Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis) is generally described as a perennial tree or shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring . The Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis) has green foliage and inconspicuous white flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous white fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the spring and continuing until winter. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis) has a short life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis) will reach up to 20 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 20 feet.

The Common Buttonbush (Occidentalis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, cuttings, seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -33°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Erosion control: Common buttonbush is used for erosion control along shorelines. It forms dense stands and its swollen plant base stabilizes the plant.

Ethnobotanic: Native Americans used common buttonbush medicinally. Decoctions of the bark were used as washes for sore eyes, antidiarrheal agents, anti-inflammation and rheumatism medications, skin astringents, headache and fever relievers, and venereal disease remedies. The bark was also chewed to relieve toothaches. Roots were used for muscle inflammation and as blood medicines.

Ornamental: Showy flowers and fruit make common buttonbush a popular choice for use in native plant gardens, shrub borders, and along pond shores and water gardens. The persistent fruits give the plant some winter interest.

Wildlife: Waterfowl and shorebirds consume the seeds of common buttonbush. White-tailed deer browse foliage in the northeastern United States. Wood ducks use the plant’s structure for protection of brooding nests. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are attracted to common buttonbush for its nectar. Bees use it to produce honey.

Description General: Madder Family (Rubiaceae). Common buttonbush is a warm-season shrub or small tree that reaches 6 m in height at maturity. Stem bases are swollen. Young twigs are green, 4-sided with elongated lenticels, and turn brown and scaly upon maturation. Leaves are opposite or whorled, lance-shaped, 18 cm long and 7.5 cm wide, glossy dark green, and emerge in May. Flowers are tubular, 4- to 5-lobed, white to reddish, 4 cm across, and form in dense clusters at the ends of the branches. Long styles give flowers a pincushion appearance. The fruit are ball-like and contain 2-seeded nutlets. Common buttonbush blooms in June through September and sets fruit in September and October.

Key characteristics of common buttonbush are its pincushion flower heads, elongated lenticels, and swollen stem bases. It is also the only wetland shrub that has whorled leaves and spherical-shaped flowers.

Distribution: Common buttonbush is native to North America. It occurs from Nova Scotia to Ontario, south through Florida, and west to the eastern Great Plains with scattered populations in New Mexico, Arizona, California, and northern Mexico. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site (http://plants.usda.gov).

Habitat: Common buttonbush is a wetland shrub common in swamps, floodplains, marshes, bogs, ditches that are underwater for part of the year, and alluvial plains with intermittent flooding. It is present in riparian and wetland communities and is associated with plants like American beech, red maple, sugar maple, black oak, pin oak, Nyssa species, bald cypress, southern bayberry, red bay, holly, dogberry, grape, viburnum, poison ivy, Indian grass, big bluestem, switchgrass, and sedges.

Adaptation The USDA hardiness zones for common buttonbush are 5 through 9. It is a pioneer species in flooded areas and colonizes lowland marsh communities dominated by hardstem bulrush. It grows well in sandy, loamy soils or alluvial soils with sand or silt surfaces. It favors acidic or neutral soils and is intolerant of alkalinity. It prefers medium to wet moisture levels and is intolerant of dry soils. Abundance increases with increased water levels and with increased light levels. Its distribution is limited to regions that have a mean July temperature of 20oC.

Management Common buttonbush does not colonize along manmade waterways. It is moderately susceptible to herbicides and can be damaged by springtime flooding. Pruning is not necessary for control of spread but can be done in the spring to shape the plant. Dense shrubs can be cut back in the fall, when water levels are low, to maintain manageability.

It has been found in the South that common buttonbush remains dominant in the absence of fire. It will resprout in a few months following low-intensity burns in wet woo

General Characteristics

General: Madder Family (Rubiaceae). Common buttonbush is a warm-season shrub or small tree that reaches 6 m in height at maturity. Stem bases are swollen. Young twigs are green, 4-sided with elongated lenticels, and turn brown and scaly upon maturation. Leaves are opposite or whorled, lance-shaped, 18 cm long and 7.5 cm wide, glossy dark green, and emerge in May. Flowers are tubular, 4- to 5-lobed, white to reddish, 4 cm across, and form in dense clusters at the ends of the branches. Long styles give flowers a pincushion appearance. The fruit are ball-like and contain 2-seeded nutlets. Common buttonbush blooms in June through September and sets fruit in September and October.

Key characteristics of common buttonbush are its pincushion flower heads, elongated lenticels, and swollen stem bases. It is also the only wetland shrub that has whorled leaves and spherical-shaped flowers.

General Upkeep and Control

Common buttonbush does not colonize along manmade waterways. It is moderately susceptible to herbicides and can be damaged by springtime flooding. Pruning is not necessary for control of spread but can be done in the spring to shape the plant. Dense shrubs can be cut back in the fall when water levels are low, to maintain manageability.

It has been found in the South that common buttonbush remains dominant in the absence of fire. It will resprout in a few months following low-intensity burns in wet woodlands. Frequent fires will promote occasional sprouting, but common buttonbush is slow to resprout (7 years) following high-intensity burns. In the southern marshlands, fire decreases grass densities, releasing nutrients for common buttonbush, and increasing growth.

Seeds and Plant Production Common buttonbush seeds are ready for collection in the fall when they have turned reddish-brown. No pretreatment is necessary. Sow seeds into moist, humus soils in full sun or part shade.

Cuttings will produce roots in moist sandy soil. Unrooted cuttings can be pushed into moist soil along shorelines and will establish on their own.

Plant Basics
Category
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Tree, Shrub
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Short
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Multiple Stem
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 20
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color White
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Spring Winter
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Cuttings, Seed
Moisture Requirements High
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.3–8.5 pH
Precipitation Range 28–28 inches/yr
Planting Density 1746–2700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 14
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA