Cephalanthus occidentalis – Common Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Common Buttonbush (flowers)

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Common Buttonbush (fruit)

Cephalanthus occidentalis - Common Buttonbush

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Cephalanthus occidentalis

Common Name: Common Buttonbush

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Deciduous

Growth Habit: Tree, Shrub

Arizona Native Status: Native

Habitat: Riparian. It grows in or near water from the desert to upland areas and is almost always found growing in wetlands (about 99% of the time).

Flower Color: White to tinged reddish

Flowering Season: Summer. Depending on the summer monsoon rains and available water, this plant blooms from June to September.

Height: To 10 feet (3 m) tall

Description: The flowers are in 1 1/2 inch (3.8 cm) wide, ball-shaped, pincushion-like clusters. The individual flowers have 4 lobes and a long, yellow-tipped style. The flower clusters are followed by similarly shaped, brown, woody seed balls. The leaves are shiny, dark green, and lance-shaped with finely-toothed margins. The stem bases are swollen.

Although this plant is poisonous, butterflies and hummingbirds visit the flowers and waterfowl eat the seeds, making it a good wildlife food plant.

Special Characteristics

Butterfly Plant – The flowers attract butterflies.

Fragrant – The flowers are fragrant.

Hummingbird Flower – The flowers attract hummingbirds.

Poisonous – This toxic plant contains the poison cephalathin, which can cause vomiting, convulsions, and paralysis if ingested.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Rubiales
Family: Rubiaceae – Madder family
Genus: Cephalanthus L. – buttonbush
Species: Cephalanthus occidentalis L. – common buttonbush

More About This Plant

Arizona County Distribution Map