Buttonbush/Cephalanthus occidentalis

misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)July 30, 2009

I wrote in a fairly recent thread that the only drawback to buttonbush/Cephalanthus occidentalis was that after it made the first flush of blooms in late spring, it only made one more scanty little flush. Well, they must bloom more the bigger they get! My big one made its first big flush in May, and it's been blooming steadily since then. The later blooms aren't as numerous, but there are enough of them to continue to attract butterflies, so I'm correcting myself - this male tiger swallowtail and female spicebush swallowtail were two of the butterflies enjoying it today -


Sherry

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zoozue(9 Lakeland)

Awesome pictures, I normally post on the Florida Forum but I need help from all butterfly enthusiasts. I will post a picture and you can help me with a positive i.d.

Of course I believe it is a Spicebush but it does not look like the other Spicebush Swallowtails in my garden.

Thanks Zoozue

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 3:15PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

It's a male spicebush swallowtail, Zoozue. Males have a variety of colorations, from gray to blue gray to green to aqua on their hindwings. There is a subspecies of spicebush swallowtails that occurs in the Deep South, and I think the green and gray ones are the subspecies. In my area, they apparently interbreed.
Anyway, your boy is beautiful!
Sherry

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 3:41PM
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zoozue(9 Lakeland)

Thanks he sure is. All the others are fairly green in color. He stands out alone as the sole light bluish gray (very pale). He was sharing the garden with this beauty. I appreciate your knowledge.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 8:55PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Beautiful pictures, Sherry and Zoozue. My Buttonbush has really been an attractant this year. It has gotten quite large. I continue to have new blooms throughout the summer also. After finding the Cecropias on it, it's status improved greatly! The plant held up well to feeding the caterpillars and could have fed a whole lot more.

Sandy

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 10:03PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Hi and welcome Zoozue;
I have to chuckle. We had a discussion earlier in the year about the color of spicebush swallowtails and it is funny to hear you say that your blue spicebush looks different. See in much of the country that is the normal color. Green is the variant found in Florida. You will have to share a green one for us!
-Elisabeth

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 10:46PM
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zoozue(9 Lakeland)

Elisabeth I will gladly upload my other pics after I feed the hungry critters and do my morning chores. Watch for them later in the day.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 7:17AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Here are some male spicebush swallowtails -



Sherry

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 8:47AM
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zoozue(9 Lakeland)

Your photos are amazing. I am still looking through files to find the Spicebush Swallowtails. I have a very haphazard photo system. Meaning I'm too lazy to file things properly. I will eventually come upon the file that I placed them in and share as many as I can with you.

I have to admit this spring and summer weather has made it hard for the butterflies to feed and lay eggs. Either its humid with a heat index over one hundred degrees or its violently storming, windy, with large and dangerous small hail and damaging rain drops.

Many of the butterflies stay hidden while many of my larval and nectar plants get pummeled.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 9:30AM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

What about us west coasters, specifically the Pacific NW? Can we grow buttonbush, and will butterflies here appreciate it?

Butterflies like Buddleia here. B. davidii is considered a weed, I'm thinking of getting B. globosa.

I think spicebush does OK here, but I don't know if any butterflies out here like it as a caterpillar host plant either. Or is it a nectar plant.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 6:30PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Spicebush, along with sassafras and other members of the laurel family, are host to spicebush swallowtails. You might see a butterfly nectar on the flowers they only make in early spring, but I doubt it.
I don't see why you can't grow buttonbush in the PNW, Hemnancy. About the only requirement is that it doesn't dry out too much - it naturally grows along river and creek banks, in ditches, and in other wet places. It grows very rapidly, and makes a big bush quickly.
Sherry

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 7:59PM
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janetg57(z9 TX)

MissSherry, what's the best way to start cuttings of buttonbush? I found a buttonbush in a ditch nearby and the county keeps cutting it down before it can bloom, so getting seeds off it is out of the question. I tried to dig up a portion of it, but it seems to be firmly rooted where it is. I need to take cuttings within a week or 2 before the county comes around again.

Thanks,
Janet

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 3:43AM
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jock.stender

Cephalanthus occidentalis is referred to here by several people as a butterfly LARVAL food plant, but that's not my experience and it's not listed as such at the http://www.mortonarb.org/?option=com_content&view=article&id=889&Itemid=6 database.

I'd appreciate any details.

-- Jock Stender, Charleston

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:02AM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

When Sandy referred to C. occidentalis as a larval host plant, it was for the silk moth, Hyalophora cecropia, aka as just plain Cecropia moth, not a butterfly. If it hosts a butterfly species, I am not aware of it. Button Bush is a very good nectar plant for butterflies and moths alike. I have also found sources reporting that it is a larval host for the sphinx moths, Titan and Hydrangea, but cannot verify that. Maybe someone else here can.

Birds also like the fruit of Button Bush. So it is a pretty good all-around wildlife plant and native to most of the US.

Sorry we confused you there! The OP asked for ID of a butterfly, which was a male Spicebush because she found it nectaring on C. occidentalis. Several people posted info on various larval host plants for the Spicebush Swallowtail, none of which included C. occidentalis. Also some discussion involved other butterfly species in general. The only referral to C. occidentalis was to "Cecropia", for which this is a larval host plant for that gorgeous silk moth. Moths have a very wide range of larval host plants, unlike butterflies, which are much more specific, excepting a few.

Hope this helps clarify things a bit.

Susan

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 8:24AM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I had smeared dagger moth cats on my buttonbush this year. Moths are nothing to write home about but the cats are cool and have a lot of color variation.

Here is a link that might be useful: Acronicta oblinita

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:13AM
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jock.stender

Thank you both for the clarification. I'm not so interested in moths as they fly mostly in the night, not day.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:52PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Very beautiful photos of P. troilus!! Even if it is an old thread.

This morning I collected some milkweed (A. syriaca) and Jewelweed seeds (Impatiens capensis) in a nearby field and stumbled across this large bush with some catkins and seeds. I've seen Buttonbush blooming around here near or in the water, but never noticed the seed pods before.

Is this buttonbush? I collected some seed for the heck of it.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:51AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

That looks like hazel alder/Alnus serrulata, terrene - it also grows creek side. It only makes a shrub here, and I don't know of anything it hosts, but it's an attractive plant nevertheless. Buttonbush seed heads are blackish blobs. When you rub them between your fingers, the seeds become more obvious.

The dagger moths are indeed cool looking, JC! One of my favorite caterpillars of all times was what was identified by David Wagner as a long-winged dagger moth -

I found a dark one at the same time I found the orange one, and Susan called them Lucy and Ricky. Unfortunately, I deleted my picture of Ricky - 'wish I hadn't!

Sherry

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 12:07PM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

Ir'a Lucy! Making an appearance after all these years! Have you ever seen another one like her, MissSherry?

Susan

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 4:36PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

No, unfortunately I haven't, Susan. In David Wagner's new book, Owlet Caterpillars of Eastern North America, p. 259, he shows a picture of an orange caterpillar that looks like mine, only paler orange. I'm sort of hurt and wondering why he didn't use my picture, since my cat was prettier and my picture showed the cat in a better position - pooh! He says, "We have received images of this caterpillar on three occasions from Mississippi and Texas. Hosts included beautyberry (Callicarpa), dogwood, and wax myrtle (Morella cerifera). While closest in appearance to the long-winged dagger (A. longa), the caterpillars are consistently distinct, and so we wonder if an as yet unrecognized species in involved. Those encountering the caterpillar are encouraged to photograph, save, and rear examples."

So if I find another one like Lucy, I'll raise her and see what she turns out to be.

Sherry

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 6:56PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thanks MissSherry! Alnus serrulata indeed. The thing that drew my attention to this tall shrub while I was collecting the seed, was that some sparrows seemed to be enjoying the seeds.

I am going to have to look out for Buttonbush seeds. Only thing is, I live on a totally well-drained, upland lot and can't grow wetland plants well here. Oh well.

Lucy is one wild orange fuzzy caterpillar! :)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 7:15PM
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bananasinohio(6OH)

Since we are sharing photos, here is one more. They sure do love Buttonbush. There were several tigers on the bush when it was producing nectar.

It really is a wetland plant. So, it will not be happy without full sun and water. Mine is very unhappy and maybe dead :(. I had to put it in a temporary bed when we cleared out our pool. So, it is in partial shade and we had a drought this summer. Ah, I needed a bigger one anyway.

It is native to the eastern and southern states. It is not native to the northern western states with the exception of California.

It does make for great pictures with those "spaceballs".

Cheers,
Elisabeth

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 9:14AM
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