Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Buttonbush - Cephalanthus occidentalis   L.
Members of Rubiaceae:
Only member of Cephalanthus in NC.
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Section 6 » Order Rubiales » Family Rubiaceae
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DistributionThroughout the Piedmont and Coastal Plain; only of sporadic or scarce occurrence in the Mountains.

This is a very wide-ranging species, occurring across the entirety of the eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, west to CA. It is absent from the northwestern third of the U.S.
AbundanceCommon and easily found across the Coastal Plain and Piedmont; rare to uncommon in lower elevations in the Mountains.
HabitatThis is a strictly wetland species, occurring in sunny or partly sunny freshwater wetlands – such as marshes, ditches, wet thickets, lake and pond margins, and shallow floodplain pools.
PhenologyBlooms from June to August (a long-blooming period for individual plants as well); fruits in August and September.
IdentificationThis is a small to medium shrub that grows to 3-10 feet tall, averaging 5-6 feet tall and broad. It has deciduous, opposite leaves that are fairly large and entire, resembling dogwoods (Cornus spp.) in many ways. The leaves average about 4-5 inches long. The species might be troubling to identify unless or until the highly distinctive 1-1.5-inch-wide round “balls” of white flowers, with long stigmas, appear at the ends of branches. These rounded balls of flowers and subsequent fruits are like no other shrubs in our area.
Taxonomic CommentsA few varieties have been described over the years, though most authorities do not recognize them today.

Other Common Name(s)Common Buttonbush, Button-willow
State RankS5
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
USACE-agcpOBL link
USACE-empOBL link
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B.A. SorrieWhispering Pines, farm pond by Niagara-Carthage Road, July 2015. MoorePhoto_natural
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