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California Buttonbush Back to Plant Page
Cephalanthus occidentalis

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About California Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) Cephalanthus occidentalis is a species of flowering plant in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, that is native to the Central Valley in California, and to eastern and southern North America. Common names include Buttonbush, Common Buttonbush, Button-willow and Honey-bells. C. occidentalis is a deciduous shrub or small tree that averages 1-3 meter (3.3-9.8 feet) in height, but can reach 6 meter (20 feet). The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three, elliptic to ovate, 7-18 centimeter (2.8-7.1 inches) long and 4-10 meter (13-33 feet) broad, with a smooth edge and a short petiole. The flowers are arranged in a dense spherical flower cluster 2-3.5 centimeter (0.79-1.4 inches) in diameter on a short peduncle. Each flower has a fused white to pale yellow four-lobed corolla forming a long slender tube connecting to the sepals. The stigma protrudes slightly from the corolla. The fruit is a spherical cluster of achenes (nutlets).

This plant is easy to grow as long as it's planted near a stream or water source. Often used in wetland revegation project in the Central Valley.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
3 - 20 ft (0.9 - 6.1 m)

Max. Width
3 - 15 ft (0.9 - 4.6 m)

Upright, Rounded

Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate

Winter Deciduous

Smooth and dark green, opposite or in whorls of three, elliptic to ovate, turning bright yellow and orange before dropping in autumn.

Flower Color
White, Cream

Flowering Season
Summer, Fall

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Edges of lakes and streams


Elevation ?
-12' - 7967'

Annual Precip. ?
6.0" - 66.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 1.80"

Coldest Month ?
34.9° F - 51.7° F

Hottest Month ?
60.0° F - 78.5° F

Humidity ?
1.05 vpd - 27.52 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a wide variety of soils and drainage types

Soil PH
6 - 8

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 10 - 20° F

Wildlife Attracted
Waterfowl eat seeds, native bees attracted to flowers

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Moderate - High
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
Keep moist
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Bee Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Cephalanthus occidentalis var. californicus

Common Names
Common Buttonbush

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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