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Cephalanthus occidentalis

ButtonbushThe distinctive, ball-like flower and fruit heads looking like a pin cushion account for the common name of buttonbush. Viewed with a magnifying glass the flower cluster is exquisite. The plant is also called Honey Balls.

The fruits of this aquatic shrub are eaten by mallard ducks. The flowers are about 1/3 inch long and form in clusters of about 1 1/2 inches. The leaves are 3 - 6 inches long and are  opposite, ovate, and untoothed.

The shrub can grow 5 - 15 feet tall. and flowers in June through August.

It grows in swamps and the borders of ponds and streams from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia south to Florida and west to Texas, north to Minnesota.

You can try sowing the seeds in containers in a cold frame in the autumn. Or take semi-ripe cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in winter. Zones 5 - 10.

Photos by Ed Utz

Tip: Check out end-of-the-season sales for next season's tools.