The Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) invites a wide variety of pollinators with its spiky flowers. Earlier this spring, I worried that it wasn’t a Buttonbush at all after three years of not blooming. This native shrub is the focal point for the rain garden, so I’m quite relieved. Today, an Eastern Swallowtail probed the many flowers that make up each flower sphere, staying on each globe for a minute or more before flitting off to the next one.

The complex flowers put this plant on my “crave” list more than twenty years ago, when I saw one blooming during a Perennial Plant Association tour. Yes, it combines my old passion for weird plant with my new passion for native ones. The spiky flowers change color as they open, from green to white to red. According to NCSU, Buttonbush has “exceptional wildlife benefits,” with flowers through September followed by showy red fruits that stay into the winter.

The Buttonbush fills up the deep end of the rain garden. If you look closely at the photo below, you can see the Swallowtail on it in line with the big pine trunk in the center.