Do You Know Buttonbush?

Butterflyonbush wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Jamestown Audubon Center in New York

See that’s the thing. Twenty years in, and I’m still learning. Anxious to add new native butterfly targets to my home garden, I noted that friends and knowledgeable folks included Buttonbush, when asked “What are the best shrubs to add to a garden designed to attract butterflies?”

Some of my new adds in my Pittsburgh garden have been excellent: Common milkweed, Mexican sunflower (not a native, but a winner!),  Asters,Greenhead coneflower. Others have disappointed: Clethra, sadly, never took.

I planted 3 Buttonbushes ( Cephalanthus occidentalis ) in our ‘peanut’ garden in June. All three flourished, but have a lot of growing to do, to reach that 3′ – 10.’ They prefer ‘wet feet’ in moist soil, and that part of my garden usually retains good moisture.

2017 may, should bring our first nourish of blooms, hopefully like these, met at the rich reserve of the Jamestown Audubon Center, in western New York State. Just down that same trail, I met a nice population of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies. Nice trail that. Wetlands give.


One thought on “Do You Know Buttonbush?

  1. Jeff — what follows is California-centric notes on what I’ve gathered for buttonbush. Many beautiful moths not native to California also employ it as a larval host, as, no doubt, many other species of Lepidoptera not native to California employ it as a nectar source. Since so many plants and Lepidoptera are wide-ranging, and California offers climates from sub-tropical to alpine, my Lepidoptera notes on several hundred species of plants native, naturalized, or cultivated in California have some usefulness almost anywhere in the world.

    Cephalanthus occidentalis. Buttonbush or Button Willow. Rubiaceae. Nectar: Pipevine Swallowtail (fq), Western Tiger Swallowtail (favorite nectar source in the Great Valley), Anise Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail (fq), Giant Swallowtail (fq). Checkered White (fq), Cabbage White, Southern Dogface, Clouded Sulphur, and Cloudless Sulphur. Monarch (fq), Queen (fq), Common Wood-Nymph, American Lady, Painted Lady, Red Admiral (fq), Lorquin’s Admiral, Viceroy, Gulf Fritillary, Pearl Crescent (fq). American Snout. Fatal Metalmark. Gray Hairstreak, Juniper Hairstreak, Eastern Tailed Blue. Funereal Duskywing, Northern Cloudywing (fq), Silver-spotted Skipper (fq), Sachem, Dun Skipper (fq), Long-tailed Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper (fq). Yellow-Collared Scape Moth (Cisseps fulvicollis, Arctiidae). Corn Earworm (Helicoverpa zea, Noctuidae). Bumblebees. Excellent! May – September.

    Larval host:

    Saturniidae: Ceanothus Silkmoth (Hyalophora euryalus).

    Arctiidae: Fall Webworm (Hyphantria cunea). Salt Marsh Moth (Estigmene acrea).

    Lymantriidae: White-marked Tussock Moth (Orgyia leucostigma).

    Cosmopterigidae: Buttonbush Leafminer (Mompha cephalanthiella).

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