Heather and Jack Griswold

Cercis canadensis cultivar (Eastern redbud, Forest Pansy, Judas tree)

This tree was planted in May 2003 in honor of Heather Hughes and Jack Griswold by Jeanne and Michael McCarthy.

Description:  A handsome purple leafed tree, it can grow to 30’ tall and 25’ wide. A flat or rounded crown with spreading branches, it is quite showy in the spring with rose purple flowers along the twigs and trunk showing up well next to the red purple new leaves. Growth is medium to fast. “A native tree with a touch of class.” There are many, many cultivars.

Leaves: Leaves stay a shimmering purple till June when they become almost dark green. Heart shaped with a broad sharp point they are 1 ½-2 ½” long and have yellow autumn color.

Bark: Dark gray or brown and smooth, it furrows with age.

Flowers: They are about ½” long and pea shaped with 5 unequal purplish pink petals. Clusters are usually 5-8 flowers. They open later than green leafed variety of tree.

Fruit: 2 ½-3 ½” narrow flat oblong pods turn pink to black before splitting open in fall or winter.

Habitat: Moist soils of valleys and slopes of hardwood forests, it prefers some shade and grows well on the edge of woodland. It grows from New Jersey to Florida, Texas to Nebraska. 

Wildlife Value: It is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Uses: Excellent ornamental landscape plant. Flowers can be eaten as a salad and fried.

History: The genus name comes from the Greek work “kerkis” which means “weaver’s shuttle” which the seed pods resemble. It was a favorite tree of George Washington. Several years after planting, the single specimen in the Columbarium was twisted off then sawed off and has lost several branches but has continued to thrive, like a good marriage.

Legends: Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself on the white flowering Asian variety after which all the flowers turned red with blood or shame.

Sources: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, M A Dirr, 2009; The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees, Eastern Division, E L Little 1980; missouribotanicalgarden.org/Plant Finder