Outdoors Recreation

In Bloom: Buttonbush

By Suzanne Wodek

Cephalanthus occidentalis, commonly called buttonbush, was named the 2023 North Carolina Wildflower of the Year. It is a native shrub with spherical pincushion blossoms composed of dense clusters of tiny white or pale pink tubular flowers. These fragrant blooms are attractive to a wide array of pollinators including butterflies, several silk moths, the Beautiful Wood-nymph moth and other Lepidoptera known to use buttonbush as a host plant.

Buttonbush. Anne Holmes, artist

This multi-stemmed shrub grows 6-12 feet, or occasionally taller, on a twisted trunk with many branches and an irregular crown. Buttonbush requires full sun to partial shade in moist to wet soils. It thrives in low-lying areas, bogs, ponds and stream banks. Supplemental watering will be necessary if planted in a full-sun location. It does not tolerate drought. Pruning is usually not necessary, but may be done in early spring for shaping. If plants become unmanageable, they can be cut back near to the ground in early spring to revitalize.

Buttonbush can help preserve water quality and enhance wildlife habitat. Waterfowl and shorebirds eat the seeds, and Wood Ducks use the plant’s structure for protection for brooding nests. It is a useful plant for erosion control or stream bank stabilization as well.

Upcoming Events
Woody Plants with Ron Lance
Sunday, June 11; 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
This 3-hour walk will focus on the natural history of native plants seen within the Botanical Gardens of Asheville (BGA). The diversity of tree and shrub species will afford plenty of opportunity for elaboration of their linkage to wildlife, humans and environment. Ronald Lance is a land manager with the North American Land Trust and currently caretakes a 3,000-acre, privately owned tract of land near Glenville with the North American Land Trust.

Creating a Native Meadow Garden with Sarah Coury
Saturday, June 24; 9–11:30 a.m.
This indoor and outdoor class will cover meadow design, plant species selection, site prep, planting methods and maintenance. The class starts with a slide presentation and talk followed by a garden walk. Sarah Coury is the garden manager at the Botanical Gardens and co-owner of Saturnia Farm in Weaverville, which specializes in holistic production of specialty perennials and native plants. With a background in wildlife conservation, Sarah’s passion is creating artistic and multi-use garden spaces that provide high habitat value for flora, fauna and humans.

Space is limited for programs. Cost is $35 for non-members and 25 percent off for BGA members. Register online at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.

Botanical Gardens of Asheville, located at 151 W. T. Weaver Boulevard, is a non-profit organization housing a collection of plants native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated and memberships are encouraged. Membership benefits include a discount of 10 percent on purchases in the gift shop, an extensive collection of gardening and nature books in the Cole Library that members can check out (reference collection not included), our quarterly New Leaf newsletter, and tours and programs at a reduced rate. Gift shop hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Learn more at AshevilleBotanicalGardens.org.

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