Back to Top

Delta Journal
by Bob Thomas

One of the most spectacular flowering plants in south Louisiana is the Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis.

Satellite plants, as I call them, have ping pong-size flowers that resemble the space modules. They are white and look a bit like spherical pin cushions due to their many styles (the projecting necks of their female structures), each tipped by a tiny yellow stigma (where the pollen is received).

They flower constantly during the summer and are pollinated by a variety of bees, moths, and other insects. For such a delicate flower, they seem to be especially favored by large bumblebees.

Their branches splay beautifully, making them perfect habitat for spiders to build their webs.

Though buttonbush will grow on land (such as in my front yard), they are most often found in wet areas, ranging from roadside ditches to freshwater marshes and swamps. They are woody bushes that can grow to over ten feet in height, often with many sprawling branches.

The bark is susceptible to rot, but this doesn’t seem to be a detriment. It makes them a valued member of the wetland community, in that many insects have their larval development in their tissue, and birds such as yellow-bellied sapsuckers dig out nests in their trunks.

Leaves of buttonbush are dark green, have a leathery feel, and are regularly shed during the summer. They are deciduous, so they drop all their leaves in the fall.

Don’t delay. Visit the Barataria Unit of the Jean Lafitte National Park and see these beauties in full bloom.