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Buttonbush for Butterflies and Awesome Aronia

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Buttonbush for Butterflies– adapted from a blog post by Justin Wheeler for the Xerces Society,

Butterflies love native Buttonbush

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) has one of the most unique flowers of any shrub, and butterflies think so too.

Skippers, monarchs, and virtually any butterflies that happen to be passing by love the white flowers. In addition to its appeal for butterflies, buttonbush also serves as a host plant for some of our largest and showiest moths including the titan sphinx (Aellopos titan) and the hydrangea sphinx (Darapsa versicolor). Bees also love buttonbush, giving it the second nickname “honeyball.”

Buttonbush's white, pincushion-like flowers turn into crimson spheres in fall and winter.

Towards fall, flowers develop into button-like seed heads and the leaves turn deep reds and yellows. The “buttons” turn a deep crimson as they linger in the winter landscape. Ducks and other waterfowl also eat the seed heads.

Between the showy blooms, glossy green leaves, fall color, and red “buttons,” buttonbush is a 4-season beauty. It can tolerate shade and a variety of soils, and it thrives in wet spots and flooded areas. You’d be hard pressed to find a more valuable or versatile native shrub.

Buttonbush thrives in a variety of soils, including areas with frequent flooding!

Buttonbush’s natural tendency is towards a leggy, gangly shape – however, it can take heavy pruning to give it a more rounded habit or to train it into an upright specimen. If you want a dense, rounded shrub you could plant three buttonbush close together to provide a fuller appearance.

Awesome Aronia – adapted from “Aronia: Native shrubs with untapped potential,” by Mark Brand for U. Conn.

The genus Aronia is a group of largely overlooked shrubs native to the eastern United States that has tremendous potential for use as ornamental landscape plants and as an edible fruit crop. One thing that has held back consumer acceptance of Aronia is the unfortunate common name “chokeberry.” Its name is also often confused with chokecherry (Prunus virginiana).

Aronia melanocarpa "Black chokeberry"

Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is rapidly gaining momentum as a new small fruit crop. The blueberry-sized black fruits have the highest known levels of antioxidants (anthocyanins and flavonoids) of any temperate fruit, five times higher than cranberry and blueberry, and contain strong anticancer compounds. While edible as a fresh fruit, Aronia berries are much tastier when the fruits have been processed. It has been widely grown in Eastern Europe and Russia where it is used in beverages, wine, jelly, and baked goods. Preliminary work in Iowa, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Nebraska has demonstrated the viability of Aronia as a fruit crop in many regions, including New England.

Aronia melanocarpa attains a mature height of 4 to 8 feet and forms dense plants and colonies, rarely appearing leggy. Plants can be grown successfully in partial shade or full sun, but better flowering, fruiting, and fall color occur in full sun situations.

Aronia makes a beautiful, dense shrub with white flowers

$5 Shrubs for Pollinators!

Butterflies love native Buttonbush

The Franklin County NRCD is offering Aronia and Buttonbush at $5 each this spring because of their awesome pollinator benefits! Check out our catalog and ordering information below.

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FCNRCD is hiring an Agricultural Programs Specialist

Job Title: Agricultural Programs Specialist               Supervisor: District Manager Job Classification: Non-exempt                              Salary: $22-25/hour Effective Date: 1/19/2024     


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