Monday, June 6, 2011
A curiously flowered shrub, the buttonbush takes its name from the round button-like fruits. The flowers are described as looking like pincushions, puffballs, or ping-pong balls, and are about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Buttonbush enjoys damp areas and thrives in swamps, marshes, and along water edges throughout most of the eastern United States. It ventures into the Midwest just past the Mississippi River and grows in selected moist pockets in Arizona and California.
The creamy white flower balls have a sweet scent and attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. The fruit ball is composed of small nutlets, which serve as a food source for ducks and other birds. The bushy growth provides cover for birds and other small animals. The leaves on this buttonbush are whorled in groups of three, but they also grow in opposite pairs. buttonbush is deciduous, which means that it drops its leaves in the fall or winter. The new growth on this shrub is tinged with red on the petioles (leaf stems) and the tips of the leaves.
Although considered inedible for humans and horses, deer are reported to enjoy the foliage and young twigs. Buttonbush leaves, bark, and roots had wide uses as a decoction, a gargle, and poultice and were used by Native Americans and European settlers to cure ailments from dysentery to toothache. However, the plant contains toxins that often had worse effects than the illness it treated, and eventually fell out of favor.
If you’d like to read more about buttonbush, please visit the following links:
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