566 Conocarpus erectus var.sericeusCommon Names: silver buttonwood, silver-leaved buttonwood Family: Combretaceae (white mangrove Family)
Silver buttonwood is a variety of buttonwood that usually grows as a low branching shrub with several trunks, but under ideal conditions silver buttonwood can become a handsome vase-shaped tree up to 50 ft (15.2 m) tall with a 20 ft (6.1 m) spread. The evergreen leaves are oblong to lance-shaped, 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) long and arranged alternately. Whereas typical buttonwood has glabrous (hairless) leaves, the leaves of silver buttonwood are covered with a dense mat of silky hairs which imparts a beautiful silver-gray color to the plant. The flowers are inconspicuous but the fruit clusters are rather showy brownish-red cone-like buttons, each containing many tiny fruits. The cultivar, 'Momba', has a very dense crown and is smaller.
Typical buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus, occurs in coastal swamps, coastal hammocks and coastal strands from Dixie and Volusia Counties in Florida, south throughout the New World tropics and on the other side of the Atlantic along the coast of West Africa. (The fruit clusters float!) It usually grows in a zone adjacent to and just inland from the mangrove zone. The silver variety occurs naturally in southern Florida but is widely cultivated.
CultureLight: Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade. Moisture: Drought tolerant and also tolerates occasional to frequent wet soil. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Possibly hardy into Zone 9B Propagation: By cuttings or layering
Silver buttonwood is salt tolerant and thrives in soils that are acidic to alkaline, clayey to sandy, and dry to wet. It does well in cities where air pollution, compacted soils and poor drainage preclude most trees. It is one tough tree, but it doesn't like frost! Silver buttonwood is often used in containers or above-ground planters on patios or decks. It is widely planted in South Florida and tropical America around parking lots and along streets. It is ideal in an informal hedge, a clipped hedge, or as a specimen tree. Silver buttonwood makes an outstanding beach front tree where it will become contorted and twisted as it adapts to the constant wind and spray.
Buttonwood (whose wood is hard and without growth rings) was once an important source of charcoal in South Florida. It is said to be excellent for smoking fish and meat. Silver buttonwood, with its small, silver leaves and contorted trunk, is a favorite subject for bonsai.
Steve Christman 08/28/99; updated 4/25/04