Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is a small tree native to eastern North America, but which can thrive as far west as California.
It is the state tree of Oklahoma. Worldwide there are some ten species of Redbud; it is a common understory tree of forests and hedgerows. Redbuds are members of the Legume family that is among the world’s largest families of plants. Redbuds have distinctive pink-magenta flowers that occur in early spring before the leaves come out. The pea-like flowers are borne directly on the leafless twigs and branches, and even on the trunk. (White-flowered cultivars have now been developed.) Redbuds have large heart-shaped leaves about 3-4 inches long. The fruit is a pea-like pod about 2-4 inches long.
At Kendal we are developing a collection of Redbud cultivars, now numbering some 10-12, and have two labeled trees in the Arboretum. No. 44, on the south loop, is a cultivar of the Eastern Redbud, C. canadensis The Rising Sun™, and is located by the Lambs sculpture at the front entrance. Look for the wonderful changing colors of the leaves! Also on the south loop is No. 60, near Parking Lot 4. This multi-stemmed tree, C. chinensis, is native to the woodlands, thickets and slopes of southern China. We also have several recently planted Redbuds that are part of the new front entrance landscaping.
In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from the Eastern Redbud are used as seasoning for wild game such as venison and opossum. Because of this, in these mountain areas the Eastern Redbud is sometimes known as the spicewood tree. The leaves are enjoyed by some caterpillars, and the seeds are eaten by bobwhites and a few songbirds.
Martin Wells and Judy Czeiner, Photographer