English Name—BUTTON-WOOD SHRUB.
French Name—Cephalanthe d'amerique.
German Name—Americanische Weissball.
Officinal Names—Cephalanthus Cortex, &c.
Vulgar Names—White Ball, Little Snowball, Swampwood, Pond Dogwood, Globe flower, in Louisiana Bois de Marais.
Authorities—Lin. Mich. Pursh, Elliot, Robin, W. Bart. Fl. fig. 91.
Genus CEPHALANTHUS—Flowers crowded on a globular and hairy phoranthe. Calix symphogyne quadrangular, margin small fourtoothed. Corolla tubular-funnelform, four cleft, epigyne, bearing four stamina equal and protruding. Pistil one coherent with the calix, style long, stigma globose. Capsule two celled, two seeded, nearly bipartible, and each cell nearly bivalve, valves uniserial.
Species C. OCCIDENTALIS—Leaves ternate or opposite, petiolate, oval-accuminate, entire and smooth: heads of flowers terminal, peduncled, upright.
Description—A fine ornamental shrub from five to fifteen feet high, very branched; bark yellow brown spotted with red, rough on the stems. Leaves ternate or opposite, with red petiols from two to four inches long, oval, base acute, end acuminate, margin often undulate, smooth on both sides, but glaucous beneath, nerves often red, veins yellow.
Flowers terminal peduncled, forming round balls of a cream white color, and sweet scented, fringed all over by the protruding Stamina and styles, nearly as large as a walnut. Phoranthe or common receptacle globular and hairy, flowers crowded all over it. Calix coherent with the pistil, with four small acute teeth—Corolla inserted on the Pistil, tubular or nearly funnel form, with four ovate segments. Stamina and style filiform, double the length of the Corolla, anthers and stigma yellow—Capsuls small, crowded, formed by two semibivalve cells, the valves opposite to each other, the two outside valves angular, each cell has only one seed.
Locality—All over the United States from Canada to Louisiana, Missouri and Florida; mostly found near streams, ponds, swamps, lakes, &c.
History—Cephalanthus means head-flower in Greek alluding to the globular form of the blossoms. Linneus only knew this species, and gave to it the name of occidental. It is peculiar to North America; the same kind said to be found in Cochinchina is a different species; but there are several varieties in the United States, not yet well noticed, some of which may be perhaps peculiar species; such are
Var. pubescent, with pubescent leaves, in Georgia.
Var. macrophylla, with large leaves half a foot long, corolla hairy inside: in Louisiana, &c.
Var. obtusifolia, leaves oval-oblong, obtuse, not undulate: in New York.
They all blossom in summer, July and August: the flowers have a peculiar fragrant smell, similar to Jessamine. The wood is brittle and useless.
The Genus belongs to the great natural order of RUBIACEOUS, forming with Nauclea, &c. a peculiar section or family, with capitate flowers. It ranks in TETRANDRIA Monogynia.
Qualities—The whole shrub active, and bitterish, the bitterness is most enfolded in the bark of the roots: this bark and the inner bark of the stem are brittle, somewhat resembling Cascarilla and Dogwood, in appearance and qualities. It has not been analyzed; but contains an essential oil, besides the usual principles of tonic barks: the oil is most abundant in the flowers.
Properties—Tonic, febrifuge, cathartic, diaphoretic, &c. The flowers, leaves, bark of stems and roots, are used by the Southern Indians, and the French settlers of Louisiana. It has not yet been noticed in our materia medica, and is even omitted by Schoepf and Henry; but it deserves further attention. A fine fragrant syrup may be made with the flowers and leaves, which is a mild tonic and laxative. The most efficient part is the bark of the root. A decoction of it, cures intermittent fevers, acting on the bowels at the same time, is useful in relaxed bowels, &c.
Substitutes—Cornus or Dogwood—Magnolias—Pinckneya—Liriodendron—Cascarilla, &c.
Remarks—The Platanus occidentalis or Sycamore, also called Button-wood is a large tree.
Additions and corrections
20. CEPHALANTHUS OCCIDENTALS—Also called Button bush.
CEPHALANTHUS. Add, inner bark agreeable bitter, much used for coughs, and in a wash for Carolina; also diuretic, taken in pills for gravel.
Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, 1828, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.