Friday, July 8, 2011

Plants in space

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) grows wild on the farm in at least 2 wet half-shaded spots. I never thought about it much before until I saw a buttonbush last month in bloom at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill. It was limbed up as a small tree and looked charming and unusual covered with round balls of flowers. The flowers were covered with bees.

(Sorry but I could not get a good picture of the entire tree; the blazing sun was right behind it.)

The little tree was as busy as a bee hive.

The flowers do have a faint sweet fragrance. I had read that they smell like
honey and it's true ~ I just checked our bottle of honey to be sure ;)

The flowers and buds remind me of a sun being orbited by planets, or a planet by its moons.

Or one could say the flowers resemble Spaceship Earth at the Epcot Center

although I think they look more like the cake version
(made by Jen and John, authors of the famous blog
Cake Wrecks) than the real thing.
picture from Cake Wrecks

Not only are these flowers remind me of outer space, they remind me of inner space too, specifically models of atoms. Anyway, now that I've seen what a limbed-up Buttonbush that gets enough sun looks like, I have to get one. It makes for an unique and in its own way beautiful specimen and the bees love it. I will have to see if ours are still flowering ~ they may have been overtaken by shade by now ~ and take cuttings this month. If that fails I know that the NC Botanical Garden has offered the seeds in the past, and that Niche Gardens sells it.

I am glad that the Botanical Garden brought this native into my orbit and allowed me to see it in a different light than I had before.


  1. That is an absolutley adorable bush! I love the pom poms on their axis. It totally reminds me of models of the solar system lol.

  2. What a lovely, interesting flowering bush. I know it looks great at your place, as does everything. You have a wonderful gift for planting and growing there on your country property.

    Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

  3. What a great bush, have never seen one before!

  4. Sweetbay,

    I love these plants we have a small one here. They are very good butterfly attractors too. Bad news is when they bloom it is a slow time for butterflies, between broods.

  5. I really like this bush!! It grew wild along the edge of our cotton field when i was a kid. I liked to pick and play with the blooms! Neat!

  6. What a fun post! I agree, the flowers are very lovely and unusual little pom-poms.

  7. I've always wanted to grow a button bush but don't have the space or moisture. Crud!! They are really cool! And you're right! They do look like Epcot. :o)

  8. Thanks for your charming post. It reminds me of the Australian native hakea

  9. We had one in the Learning Garden in Virginia and I loved it. I bought one this fall at a native plant sale. Right now it is about 3 feet tall and no blooms.....maybe next year.

  10. What a neat shrub! I'm not familiar with it but after seeing those sweet round blooms and hearing the bees like them too ~ I think it's a winner! I hope you find one soon to add to your beautiful garden SB. I'm betting it would love it there.

  11. You have the most interesting plants growing wild all around you. I love this funny spaceship earth flower. I've never seen a buttonbush before, and it's a real eye catcher.

  12. What an interesting shrub; I've never seen one of these before. The flowers and buds do remind me of models of atoms as well as the solar system.

    Seeing the Epcot cake reminds me that I haven't visited that site for awhile. I spent a few hours one Friday evening several months ago going through all their posts--I couldn't stop laughing:)

  13. Good luck with the buttonbush cuttings. It's a nice shrub, glad it's on your radar.

  14. I was considering this shrub earlier in the year but steered away when I read that it needed a lot of water. I think the flowers are utterly charming! I thought of outer space, too, when I saw hem.

  15. It's an unusual plant, and it is reminiscent of both inner and outer space.


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