Garden Talk

with Rebecca Jordi

Q: What it the name of the plant I see along the roadsides with round, white flowers?

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A:  This is a repeat question which I have answered in the past but since the plant is showing the beautiful, round, white flowers now I am sure to get this question again. “I suspect you are referring to the Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis.  Buttonbush grows as a shrub or small tree – typically growing 10 or 20 feet tall. This plant is deciduous, losing its leaves for 1 or 2 months in winter. Buttonbush is a native plant which occurs in swamps, ponds, and stream banks throughout Florida. Keep that in mind if you are thinking about adding it to your landscape, it is not a true drought tolerant plant. However, it might make an excellent choice for areas around retention ponds. It flowers from early spring to late summer and provides nectar for many important native pollinators. 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 and bees use it to produce honey.  Buttonbush is named for its ball-like clusters of small white flowers around fruits. Flower balls can be an inch or more across which dangle from long stalks. Buttonbush leaves are about six inches long, elliptic, and tapering to pointed tips. As buttonbush becomes older, its bark becomes rough and bumpy. According to the USDA Common buttonbush contains the poison Cephalathin which can induce vomiting, paralysis, and convulsions if ingested. Therefore, do not use this as a stick for roasting marshmallows.


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