At this time of year Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) is studded with one-inch diameter white or pale pink globular flowerheads. Each “button” consists of many individual flowers, each of which has an extended pistil, giving the flowerhead a starburst appearance, and a striking resemblance to a pin cushion. Bees, hummingbirds and butterflies all flock to this bountiful nectar provider. Once seeds have formed, waterfowl and shorebirds feed on them. Often found near swamps and wetlands, Buttonbush’s mid-summer flowering period lasts for about a month.
During the summer, Buttonbush’s one-and-a-half-inch-diameter, white flower balls can be spotted along shorelines and in wetlands. The fragrance of this shrub’s flowers attracts many pollinators, especially bumblebees and butterflies (their tongues are long enough to reach the deep nectaries). After pollination, the 200-plus flowers on each head of this member of the Coffee family produce small nutlets that are dispersed by water and consumed by waterfowl (particularly surface-feeding dabbling ducks), American Bitterns, rails and Northern Bobwhites. (photo: buttonbush seed head)