Cephalanthus is Latin for head (cephalo) and flower (anthos); occidentalis is Latin for western.
Swamps and pond margins.
A visually interesting ornamental for landscaping due to both its unusual flowers and seeds, and its twisted multi-stemmed branching. Can be used as a shrub or small tree. Grows well in moist to wet soil. It can survive inundation. Fall color change is not dramatic.
A multi-stemmed, branching deciduous shrub, typically up to 12 ft tall. It grows well in a variety of moist soils in part shade.
Leaves and Stems
Stems are spreading, multi-branched, often twisted, crooked or leaning. Leaves are simple, opposite, glossy, dark green, paired or in threes at each node, and grow on a petiole (stalk), with each blade up to 8 inches long and a width approximately 1/3 of length. Leaf tip is pointed, margins smooth, with glossy upper surface, and duller underside.
Globe-like blooms in summer (June through September), with small, fragrant white to pale-pink flowers, in a 1-inch spherical head, resembling a pincushion, due to a fringe of pistils protruding beyond white corollas. Flowers are distinctive and long-lasting.
Round, button-like balls of dry fruit (nutlets) change from red to black and can persist through winter after the leaves fall. Fruit does not split open when ripe.
Nectar plant for butterflies, such as Papilio glaucus (tiger swallow-tail), bees, and other insects. Seeds are excellent autumn and winter fodder for ducks and other water and shore birds.
Propagation is by seed.
Native Americans are reported to have used roots for blood medicines and muscle inflammation, and bark as anti-inflammatory medicine for rheumatism, muscle inflammation and toothaches.
Performance Hall Garden (see garden map)
Plant Profile by Kate O’Dell