Herb: Buttonwood

Latin name: Platanus occidentalis

Synonyms: Platanus hispanica, Platanus macrophylla, Platanus vulgaris angulosa

Family: Platanaceae (Planetree Family)

Medicinal use of Buttonwood:

The inner bark is astringent, diuretic, emetic and laxative. It has been used as a tea in the treatment of dysentery, coughs, colds, lung ailments, haemorrhages, measles, milky and difficult urination etc and also as a blood tonic. Externally, it has been used as a wash on wounds. An infusion of the bark and roots has been used as a foot soak for treating rheumatism. The bark ooze has been used as a wash on infected sores and an infusion has been given in the treatment of infant rash. An infusion of the bark, mixed with honey locust bark (Gleditsia triacanthos), has been used as a gargle to treat hoarseness and sore throat.

Description of the plant:


30 m
(98 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Rich soils on the borders of streams and lakes.

Edible parts of Buttonwood:

The sweet sap is tapped in the spring and used in the preparation of syrup and sugar.

Other uses of the herb:

A fairly wind resistant tree, it can be grown as part of a shelterbelt planting. Wood - coarse-grained, tough, strong, very durable, difficult to split. Rather weak according to other reports. It weighs 35lb per cubic foot, and is used for furniture, chopping boards etc. Trunks of wild trees can be up to 4.5 metres in diameter and these were at one time hollowed out to make barges capable of carrying several tons of goods.

Propagation of Buttonwood:

Seed - two months cold stratification improves germination. Sow spring in a cold frame in light shade. Home grown seed is often of poor quality and low viability. It is best to harvest the seed in late winter or spring and then sow it immediately in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of mature wood of the current years growth, 20 - 30 cm with a heel, autumn in a cold frame. Easy. Layering of stools in spring or autumn. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rich soils on the borders of streams and lakes.

Known hazards of Platanus occidentalis:

In hot dry climates the hairs of the fruits and leaves are believed to cause an effect similar to hay fever.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.