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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Silver Buttonwood (Conocarpus erecta var.sericeus)

By Staff | Feb 25, 2015

First impression: Pimpled, leather-like and pea-shaped in shades of cranberry red to chocolate brown. These fruits and seeds are clustered around oodles of stems and branches. Silvery gray, slender oblong leaves emerge everywhere as an adornment to these eye-catching, button-like fruit. The dark trunk is gnarly and twisted and, gosh, really makes you stop and look it over once or twice.

Take your time; we have lots of silvery, shimmery trees that require that second glance fruiting now at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Silver buttonwood is very versatile, and can be grown as a densely branched shrub or large tree. It’s one of those in-betweeners, you decide the height by pruning. Left on its own, the mature height can be a whopping 40 feet tall.

To morph a tree, I routinely shape and form the multi-trunks into one main one. You can recognize mature buttonwoods by their tortuous, zigzagging trunk. These lateral growing sections are great for tillansia and bromeliads to hang out on. Our star has silver-gray oblong leaves, which makes it a great dimensional addition of color to your garden.

We gardeners in paradise are always looking for different textures, shapes and colors, and silver buttonwood has it all. You may never notice the flowers, but you will admire the fruit. It is gorgeous on the branches in clusters of crimson red and textured with tiny bumps. They are the size of holly berries and remind me of nature’s always-a-holiday decorations. This stage of fruiting is when wildlife, especially birds, adore this plant. I encourage you to try this plant for borders and natural fences. Its dense growth habit lends itself to privacy with a wonderful display of color and habitat friendliness.

I enjoy watching our garden birds hop from twig to twig. The small warblers are attracted to the insects that hover around the flowers. The mockingbirds, cardinals, bluejays, thrashers, and catbirds not only look for fruits but hide from predators. I have even discovered many birds nesting in our buttonwoods. Nests fit very nicely in the groupings of shrubs. Closely grouped shrubs will offer prospective parents plenty of support and multiple exits and entrances to confuse.

After the fruit, the seeds form by turning to a tan colored brown. These seeds reminded pioneers of old fashioned leather buttons, hence the name silver for the leaves and button for the orbed seeds. All this dimensional kaleidoscopic display is going on at the same time, which makes fruiting leaves and seeds a real show-stopper.

Silver buttonwood will grow on a wide variety of soils and sand, its native status puts it in the easy care, drought tolerant and lack of pests/disease category. Once you see the abundant red fruits and shimmery silver leaves, you will love this plant. I use them for any area that needs a touch of glimmer to it. I encourage you to try one. Once you admire its tortuous shape, easy care, and unique color as a tree, don’t forget to thank me!


* Ever silver

* Does well in sandy soil

* Likes full sun

* Easy to maintain/prune

* Versatile shrub or tree

* Birds love the fruit

* Salt tolerance

* Gives garden dimension with leaf color when not in bloom

* Great for hard to grow places

* Drought tolerant

* Neighbors will wonder how old that tree is

* Native


* Cold sensitive

* Birds love the fruit

* May have to thank Anita

* Could zig when you want it to zag

Conclusion: Need some old-fashioned inspiration for your tropical garden? Come see our shimmery, shiny, silvery buttonwoods, no batteries needed, in our tropical garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!