Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two takes on buttonbush

with 48 comments

Here are two takes on buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park on August 29th.
Will the curving leaf tip below hook you the way it did me?

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 21, 2019 at 4:41 AM

48 Responses

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  1. Excellent


    September 21, 2019 at 5:18 AM

  2. I am not familiar with buttonbush, looked up the range on wikipedia. There is a “hole” in the range in upstate New York. Sad. Austin is on the western edge of the range.


    September 21, 2019 at 5:50 AM

    • It’s good of you to look up buttonbush’s range. I knew that it extends into eastern Canada, and in looking at the USDA map now I see what you mean about the hole in northern Pennsylvania and some adjacent parts of New York’s southern tier. On the positive side for you, though, is the fact that Tompkins County is marked for buttonbush. On the negative side, the map doesn’t indicate how common a species is in a marked county. Even if buttonbush isn’t common, you might yet come across it. You’d have no doubt you’re seeing it if you caught it flowering:


      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 6:29 AM

      • I looked at your earlier post, too. It is a beautiful plant. I have not seen it here.

        Lavinia Ross

        September 21, 2019 at 9:31 AM

        • It’s common near streams and lakes across much of the eastern part of the country. Its flower globes are fragrant.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 21, 2019 at 10:26 AM

      • I just looked at the map. Doesn’t appear to grow in Oregon.

        Lavinia Ross

        September 21, 2019 at 9:32 AM

      • I’ve only seen it along the shores of Lake Ontario, and not in the Finger Lakes, even Tompkins Co.

        Robert Parker

        September 21, 2019 at 11:05 AM

        • That may confirm it’s not as common (or at all common) in the Finger Lakes as along Lake Ontario. In any case, at least you’ve seen it. Buttonbush is also marked for Long Island but I don’t remember ever seeing it in my childhood. While I didn’t pay much attention to such things back then, the flowers globes are striking enough that it seems I’d have noticed them if I’d come across any.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 21, 2019 at 11:17 AM

  3. Those buttons almost look like candy and good enough to eat. Lovely shots Steve!

    Pete Hillman

    September 21, 2019 at 7:56 AM

    • I’ve never tried eating any part of a buttonbush but the flowers have a pleasant fragrance and I enjoy sniffing them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 10:27 AM

  4. Both of your recent ‘hook’ photos have hooked me. What I find especially appealing about this pair is the color. The reds and greens of the half-ripened fruits are the same as those in the hook of the leaf. They complement one another beautifully.


    September 21, 2019 at 8:19 AM

    • Just call me Captain Hook. Some might even call me crotchety.

      I hadn’t noticed how similar the reds and greens are in the two photographs. I have noticed that various parts of this plant are given to turning various shades of red, for example the axils in the first picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 10:36 AM

      • Ha! Would it be fair, then, to say that my occasionally crotchety mother’s crochet hooks were (at least linguistically) a redundancy?


        September 21, 2019 at 10:45 AM

        • Yes, it would. The words crotchet and crochet are what linguists call doublets, meaning that they came into our language by different routes from the same original.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 21, 2019 at 11:11 AM

  5. A button and a hook~pretty good. This is one of my favorite bushes. Some years ago I planted one in my rain garden and it is very happy down in there, often up to its chin in water.


    September 21, 2019 at 8:30 AM

    • Yes, given buttonbush’s broad range, this is another species we share. You’re right that this species thrives near water, like the one shown at the edge of a lake in this post. How long a buttonbush can survive inundated, I don’t know, but yours seems to have made it okay.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 10:38 AM

      • It prefers it, I believe. There a couple of them at Grant Woods and they also are right down in the water and thriving. My erstwhile rain garden, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, almost never dries out. If we were going to stay in this house I’d dig it out further and line it to make a proper pond out of it. I have seen more species of dragonflies in our yard. It tickles me to think I’ve given them a place to call home. Too bad we live in a concrete jungle. I suspect the amphibians in the area are long since dead and gone and even if there were still some here, I doubt they could reach my soggy corner of the planet.


        September 23, 2019 at 9:00 AM

        • Sounds like you’re really intent on moving.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 23, 2019 at 9:30 AM

          • Sigh, yes. The pressures here, between an aggressively loud high school, crazy high property tax, etc, are making us feel we must. We’re thinking 31/2 years although some days it is more like TODAY!!! The debate of where we will go is raging on.


            September 24, 2019 at 9:18 AM

            • If you have three-and-a-half years, there’s plenty of time to evaluate alternatives.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 24, 2019 at 2:31 PM

              • Yes. If it were just me of course I’d make tracks to the northern Ca coast.


                September 25, 2019 at 8:05 AM

    • By the way, your linking of the button and hook is a reminder that buttons in the 1800s were often spherical, and that’s why people called this species buttonbush.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 10:42 AM

      • Oh, that makes sense. It certainly reminded me of those round buttons. The blooms are cool looking when they are fresh.


        September 23, 2019 at 8:53 AM

  6. The tip of the leaf with its amazing curvature has hooked me too, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    September 21, 2019 at 8:40 AM

    • Good. Welcome to the delegation of the hooked. This buttonbush leaf had the most appealing curved tip of any I remember ever photographing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 10:44 AM

  7. This is such a neat plant, before, during, and after blooming, it’s interesting-looking.

    Robert Parker

    September 21, 2019 at 11:06 AM

    • I’ve always found it so and have taken plenty of photos of the various phases. It’d been a while since I showed a buttonbush, so it was high time to feature the species.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 11:23 AM

  8. Not bad, Captain Hook. Not bad at all. For the record, it is the hook that hooked me.

    Michael Scandling

    September 21, 2019 at 11:10 AM

    • I appreciate your confirmation that a look at the hook is all it took for me to hook you.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 21, 2019 at 11:26 AM

      • Just one hook. That’s all it took.

        Michael Scandling

        September 21, 2019 at 11:29 AM

      • Apologies to Doris Troy.

        Michael Scandling

        September 21, 2019 at 11:30 AM

        • I recognized the reference to the song but didn’t know the name Doris Troy. I see from Wikipedia that Doris Elaine Higginsen took the stage name Doris Troy based on Helen of Troy. That’s probably a better antecedent than Troy, New York.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 21, 2019 at 11:35 AM

  9. Yes, absolutely the leaf hooked me. Nice sighting, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    September 24, 2019 at 3:07 AM

  10. It sure is a hook! Love love the first image Steve .. bring on buttonbush


    September 26, 2019 at 6:38 PM

    • I’m happy to hear you’re hooked, and even more on the first picture than the one with the hook in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 26, 2019 at 6:41 PM

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