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Botanical Name: Cercis canadensis

Common Name: Eastern Redbud
Nativity: E. & C. North America
Location: Kendal

The Eastern redbud is a deciduous, often multi-trunked understory tree. It is native to eastern and central North America from Connecticut and New York south along the East Coast to Florida, westward to eastern Texas, and north into Wisconsin.   Cercis canadensis is found growing in open woodlands and thickets, in woodland margins, limestone glades, and along rocky streams and bluffs. Cercis is particularly noted for its stunning, pea-like, ½-inch wide, rosy purple flowers which bloom profusely on bare branches in early spring (March-April) for 2 to 3 weeks before the foliage emerges –- a pleasant sight to behold while driving along Interstate 95 in Maryland. The perfect, magenta pink flowers are soon followed by waxy, purplish green, new leaves that quickly turn to a softly shining, dark blue-green in summer, and then a clear bright yellow in fall. The leaves are 3 to 5” long and have a uniquely appealing heart shape with a short-pointed tip. Soon after flowering, 3-inch long, pea-like, seed pods develop, persisting through winter. Eastern redbud enjoys a deep, moderately fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to light shade; avoid wet soils. Sun-dappled or light shade is best in hot summer climates. Since this tree does not transplant well, it should be planted when young and left undisturbed. Regular watering, fertilizing, and pruning out dead branches will help keep the tree healthy and growing vigorously. Unfortunately leaf anthracnose, canker, and Verticillium wilt can be significant disease problems.

The flowers provide an early spring source of pollen and nectar for bees, and once pollinated form leguminous pods which provide seed that is consumed by hungry birds. In the south leaf cutter bees, a productive pollinator for summer gardens and flowers, use the leaves to line their nests. Eastern redbuds also support the specialized bee, Habropoda laboriosa. This dapper and low-branching tree with a flat-topped to rounded crown grows in USDA Zones 4 to 9, reaching 20 to 30 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide. George Washington noted in his diary that he enjoyed the lovely sight of redbuds in the surrounding woods and on many occasion transplanted redbuds from those woods into his Mount Vernon garden.

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