(Cephalanthus occidentalis) Madder family

Flowers - Fragrant, white, small, tubular, hairy within,

4-parted, the long, yellow-tipped style far protruding; the

florets clustered on a fleshy receptacle, in round heads (about 1

in. across), elevated on long peduncles from leaf-axils or ends

of branches. Stem: A shrub 3 to 12 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite or

in small whorls, petioled, oval, tapering at the tip, entire.

Preferred Habitat - Beside streams and ponds; swamps, low ground.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Florida and Cuba, westward to

Arizona and California.

Delicious fragrance, faintly suggesting jasmine, leads one over

marshy ground to where the buttonbush displays dense,

creamy-white globes of bloom, heads that Miss Lounsberry aptly

likens to "little cushions full of pins." Not far away the sweet

breath of the white-spiked clethra comes at the same season, and

one cannot but wonder why these two bushes, which are so

beautiful when most garden shrubbery is out of flower, should be

left to waste their sweetness, if not on desert air exactly, on

air that blows far from the homes of men. Partially shaded and

sheltered positions near a house, if possible, suit these water

lovers admirably. Cultivation only increases their charms. We

have not so many fragrant wild flowers that any can be neglected.

John Burroughs, who included the blossoms of several trees in his

list of fragrant ones, found only thirty-odd species in New

England and New York.

Examine a well-developed ball of bloom on the button-bush under a

magnifying glass to appreciate its perfection of detail. After

counting two hundred and fifty minute florets, tightly clustered,

one's tired eyes give out. A honey-ball, with a well of nectar in

each of these narrow tubes, invites hosts of insects to its

hospitable feast; but only visitors long and slender of tongue

can drain the last drop, therefore the vicinity of this bush is

an excellent place for a butterfly collector to carry his net.

Butterflies are by far the most abundant visitors; honey-bees

also abound, bumblebees, carpenter and mining bees, wasps, a

horde of flies, and some destructive beetles; but the short

tongues can reach little nectar. Why do the pistils of the

florets protrude so far? Even before each minute bud opened, all

its pollen had been shed on the tip of the style, to be in a

position to be removed by the first visitor alighting on the ball

of bloom. After the removal of the pollen from the still immature

stigma, it becomes sticky, to receive the importation from other

blossoms. Did not the floret pass through two distinct stages,

first male, then female, self-fertilization, not

cross-fertilization, would be the inevitable result. The dull red

and green seed-balls, which take on brown and bronze tints after

frost, make beautiful additions to an autumn bouquet. The bush is

next of kin to the coffee.

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