Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Given in memory of Marjorie Alice Robinson and Lavius Arad Robinson, Jr., by Mark and Karen Robinson, in 2010.
Description: These two redbud trees along with the others on the edge of this wooded area were planted in early 2010 as bare root trees approximately 4-5 feet tall. A handsome tree, it can grow to 30 feet tall and 25 feet 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. It thrives as an understory tree. Growth is medium to fast. “A native tree with a touch of class.”
Leaves: Leaves are simple, alternate and heart shaped. They are 3-6 inches in length and width with an attractive gold-yellow color in autumn.
Bark: Dark-gray or brown and smooth, furrowing with age.
Flowers: Bloom in early spring and range from pink to purple in color. Unlike many other plants, the flowers are seen before the leaves. They are 1/2-inch-wide, pea shaped with about 7 flowers in a cluster. These flowers grow on new stems as well as older branches.
Fruit: 1-3 inches narrow flat oblong seed pods that are green and turn to brown or brownish black.
Habitat: Moist soils of valleys and slopes of hardwood forests, it prefers some shade and grows well on the edge of woodlands. 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 or 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.
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. The heart-shaped leaves are fully formed by Good Friday as a symbol of God’s love.
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;
NC State Extension Gardener Plant toolbox https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/cercis-canadensis/