State champion Buttonbush tree in full bloom

white flowering tree

Cephalanthus occidentalis or Button bush is a small tree found in the Rubiaceae family

On the south side of the Tucker Hall greenhouse, you can see the state champion Button bush tree in full bloom…This particular specimen is the largest tree of its kind in the state of Missouri.  If you enjoy canoeing on Missouri streams, you’ll often see this tree hanging over the water, as it likes to grow in medium to wet soils along streams and ponds.  It has spectacular head inflorescences of fragrant, creamy white flowers.  This plant is found in the same family as coffee too.  Butterflies and bees love these flowers.  When you look closely at the head inflorescences of the Button bush, you’ll see that they resemble a pincushion.  The female parts of the flower, the styles are what is projecting out from the top of the petals of the individual flowers.

The genus name is derived from the Greek words ‘cephalo’ (head) and ‘anthos’ (flower).