Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vanishing Act


Four days passed between the capture of these two panoramas looking over the smaller sinkhole. To me, this really illustrates the importance of protecting the quality of surface waters. The water on the surface four days ago has percolated down through a sand column to the Floridan aquifer. It is quite likely bubbling up in Sulphur Springs, spilling out into Hillsborough River, and flowing into Tampa Bay.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Plant Profile: Buttonbush

Common Name: Buttonbush

Scientific Name: Cephalanthus occidentalis L.

Form:  Deciduous scrubby arching shrub

Height/Spread: 10-12 ft tall (upwards as high as 20 ft), spread similar to height.

Leaves: Deciduous, simple, entire margin, ovate to elliptical shape with acute tip and rounded (obtuse) base, opposite arrangement (sometimes in whorls of 3), dark green glabrous above sometimes minutely pubescent (hairy) below.

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Twigs: New twigs reddish  brown, slightly haired to hairless with raised corky lenticels.

Bark: Older twigs and larger stems grayish, rough, and fissured.

Flowers: Numerous fragrant small white flowers arranged in a dense globe. Stamens projecting from the cluster give it a pincushion like appearance. Flowers are borne in loose cymes typically at the end and axis of new growth. Blooms throughout the summer months; June through September.

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Fruit and Seeds: Globose cluster of nutlets

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Habitat : Buttonbush is an obligate wetland shrub to be found in swamps, marshes, forested wetlands and along the borders of lakes, streams and ponds.


Range: Eastern Canada to Florida and west to California, Mexico, and Cuba. Found throughout Florida.

Shade Tolerance: Tolerant

Fire Tolerance: Not tolerant. May re-sprout following fire.

Wildlife Use: Waterfowl and shorebirds consume the fruit. Bees and butterflies collect pollen and nectar from flowers.


Field ID: Buttonbush is easily recognized by its opposite or whorled leaf arrangement and or the presence of the globose white flower heads and globose fruit. Buttonbush is an obligate wetland species.

Information: The scientific name for buttonbush, Cephalanthus  is from the Greek Kephale for head and anthos for flower. The globe like cluster of flowers do resemble old style globular buttons which may reveal the derivation of the common name. The Miccosukee of Florida called buttonbush “alligator shader” which seems appropriate considering their common locale along lake or river edges. Native Americans throughout the Eastern US found many medicinal uses for buttonbush. Recent analysis of the chemistry of buttonbush has revealed gylcosides that can be toxic to humans and livestock. So, leave this one for bees and butterflies.

References and Additional Resources: