Buttonbush – Cephalanthus occidentalis

Buttonbush
Buttonbush

This native of Eastern North America grows to be between 6 -30 feet tall. The flower is a very interesting looking ball that is followed by a spherical ball of nutlets.  The flowers are arranged in a dense spherical inflorescence about 3 centimeters in diameter on a short peduncle.

It was cultivated as early as 1735. The Choctaw and Seminole peoples used decoctions of buttonbush bark for treating diarrhea and stomach aches. It is little used in modern Herbalism. A tea made from the bark is astringent, emetic, febrifuge and tonic. A strong decoction has been used to treat diarrhea and dysentery, stomach complaints, hemorrhages etc. It has been used as a wash for eye inflammations.

The wilted leaves contain bitter glycosides causing poisoning in humans, and cattle. But deer can eat it with no ill effect. The symptoms of poisoning are vomiting, convulsions, spasms, and muscular paralysis.

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