Riparian Plants: Buttonbush - Cephalanthus occidentalis
Buttonbush occurs as a non-dominant midstory species in mixed riparian forests, so long as the roots have year round access to the water table within a 3m reach. Buttonbush can be a more dominant species in backwater sloughs where permanent standing water is poorly oxygenated. Buttonbush can tolerate long duration flooding. As a shade tolerant species, it is able to grow under the closed canopies of riparian forests. It can also tolerate extended droughts during the summer once its roots are tapped into the water table. Seedlings develop best in moist, sandy soils.
Buttonbush grows as a shrub and occasionally as small trees, and ranges from 2-8m in height. Multiple stems arise from one to several main stems covered in scaly bark on adult shrubs, creating low, dense areas of cover that are used by waterfowl for hiding young and other wetland wildlife such as small mammals and foraging ground birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds eat the seeds, stems are browsed by deer, and the fragrant flowers are frequented by bees and other insects.
For more information about the ecological tolerances and structure of riparian plants, see Gaines 1977, Conard and others 1977, Holstein 1984, Sacchi and Price 1988, Faber and Holland 1996, Cooper and others 1999, Vaghti 2003, Fremier and Talley 2009, and Vaghti and others 2009.