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HomeNL-2014-07 5 Nature Nook

Nature Nook
July, 2014
by Natalie Wi


Buttonbush is one of my favorite shrubs or small trees that we see many times paddling in our area and across Texas.  Although it grows in full sun, and it surely does at Buzzard’s Roost on Lake Charlotte, where I see it most often is in more forested areas.  I was surprised some years ago to find it growing out of a crack and on a rocky outcrop along the Pecos River in West Texas.  The Pecos is spring fed so there must be some fairly constant water source there.  The shrub was growing in full sun there.


It is most easily recognized from its white, round-shaped blooms.  Its fruit is also round, and in the photo you see both the bloom and the forming up fruit:


Indeed it grows well on the Buzzard’s Roost on Lake Charlotte and as a small tree supports nests for the herons and egrets that love that spot:



That’s from a Houston Canoe Club trip in July 2013.  Notice the white globular blooms particularly to the left side of the photo.


From a Pecos trip in 2008, here is our group walking up a dry canyon and stream bed.  Notice the yellowish bush on the left and on the outside of the bend:


Here is a close-up:


Yep, that’s buttonbush.  The round fruits/seeds are brown or rust-colored here and will be an important food source for several species of birds.


Here is how the Aggie Horticulture site describes buttonbush:


Buttonbush grows in low, moist soils in most of the state and from Florida to Mexico and north to Canada. Although it is a wetland shrub that grows in poorly draining areas (it can tolerate water depths up to three feet), it can survive in drier sites as long as it is irrigated. It has many branches coming from the base to form a loose, rounded mound. The glossy, opposite or whorled, oval to elliptical leaves are 2 to 6 inches long and half as wide. The flowers, one-inch white fragrant globes that look like pincushions, appear from June to August. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and at least 25 species of birds eat the seeds, which resemble those of the sycamore tree and stay on the plant throughout winter. Relatively fast-growing, buttonbush grows in sun and part shade; it will flower best if given full sun and adequate moisture.


From one of my favorite native plant books, Wasowski and Wasowski’s Native Texas Plants: “The bush (or small tree) is overwhelmed by balls of pale pink flowers that smell sweet and are always covered by bees and butterflies.  [I’ve never seen any except white.]  In full sun, buttonbush can bloom solidly all summer; in shade, it blooms off and on from June to September.  It will grow in shallow water… or on land where it is always moist.  It tends to stay shrubby in the water, but on the bank it will gradually develop into a tree with a twisty, gnarled trunk.  The fruits… attract more than 25 species of waterfowl.”


Natalie Wiest


The author, Natalie Wiest