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Conocarpus erectus, Buttonwood

Buttonwood is ideal for seaside plantings as it is highly tolerant of full sun, sandy soils, and salty conditions. It also tolerates brackish areas and alkaline soils, thriving in the broken shade and wet soils of hammocks. This is a tough tree! It withstands the rigors of urban conditions very well and makes a durable street or parking lot tree. Due to its small size, plant on 15- to 20-foot centers to form a closed canopy over the sidewalk along a street.

Purchase single-trunked trees for street and parking lot plantings. Help prevent sprouting at the base of the trunk by training trees to a single trunk when they are young in the nursery. Sprouting is often a bigger problem if multiple trunks are allowed to develop and then they are pruned off to form a single trunk. Trees are tough and long-lasting in the landscape. Old plants grow to 30 feet tall and wide; some plants can grow larger than this.

The wood of Buttonwood was used for firewood, lumber, cabinet work, and charcoal making and is a perfect wood for smoking meats and fish. The tree usually develops included bark in crotches of major branches but the wood is considered strong enough to compensate for this defect to a certain degree. Salt is excreted through glands in the petioles.

This plant can be grown as a multi-trunk tree for use in highway median strips and in landscapes, or can be used as a street tree where there is not a need for tall-vehicle clearance beneath the crown. The small stature and low, spreading, branching habit makes pruning for vehicular clearance difficult unless it is properly trained from an early age to develop one main trunk. The effort required initially to train this tree for street tree use, however, may be offset by its advantages.

Occurs in Cape Canaveral along the coast to Key West and Bradenton. Often seen with mangroves growing near water.

National champion is 51 x 68 feet in Palm Beach, Florida.

Buttonwood Photos


Buttonwood bark

Buttonwood leaves

Buttonwood flowers

Buttonwood seeds

Additional Resources