Who’s Got the Button(bush)?

Buttonbush flowers and developing seed head


The children’s game called “Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?” isn’t complicated. One child, carrying a hidden button, appears to transfer it into the waiting hands of every other child standing or sitting in a circle. Then, everyone tries to guess who actually received the button.

The flowers of buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ) wouldn’t do so well for the game; they’re both too large and too delicate. Still, they’re as attractive as the plant is useful. Commonly found in wet open areas, low woods, thickets, swamps, river bottoms and stream or pond edges, buttonbush can live in up to 2 feet of water. This combination of blooming flowers and developing seed head was perched at the edge of a small lake near the Watson Rare Plant Preserve in east Texas; one of my own feet was planted in the water as I took the photo.

Though tolerant of shade, buttonbush blooms most profusely in full sun. The pincushion-like flowers — actually one-inch round ball-like clusters of white blooms — provide nectar for a variety of bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, and beetles, and an assortment of birds are known to visit. Its seeds are favored by waterfowl, and some mammals feed on its twigs.

Widely distributed across the eastern half of the United States, this easy-to-grow native makes a fine addition to gardens and landscapes where moist to wet conditions prevail, although some have found it capable of adapting to drier areas. Its fruits, deep red and sometimes glossy, will last throughout the fall.

Pond Creek Wildlife Management Area ~ Northwest Arkansas


Comments always are welcome.

Gulf Coast Autumn: Purple

American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

To my eye the loveliest of our autumn fruits, the elegant beautyberry is more than a local delight. Spreading across the eastern third of Texas into Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, its form and autumn colors are unmistakable. As its leaves begin to yellow, they complement the developing fruit; once the leaves have fallen, the rich, purple berries decorate winter gardens and landscapes.

Birds enjoy its fruit throughout the fall and early winter, scattering its seed so widely the plants can appear almost anywhere: in goldenrod-filled fields; along stream edges; in vine-filled thickets.

Should seeds drop in open areas and fine conditions allow the plants to thrive, their enthusiasm for growth is obvious. Reaching high above their companions, they showcase their fruits against the thinning autumn sky: as heart-stopping as any flaming maple, as compelling as the sounds of migration.

Once the beautyberry has turned, the season has turned, as well.


Comments always are welcome.