Eastern Redbud


Cercis canadensis
Caesalpiniaceae (sennas)

A shrub or small tree. Very ornamental in spring with small, clustered, rose-purple flowers covering the bare branches before the leaves.

Leaves simple, alternate, 2–6 inches long, 1¼–6 inches wide, oval to heart-shaped, tip pointed, base heart-shaped; upper surface dark green, smooth; lower surface paler and smooth with some hairs along veins and in vein axils; leaf stalk 1¼–5 inches long, smooth.

Bark is reddish brown to gray, thin and smooth when young. Older trees have long grooves and short, thin, blocky plates.

Twigs slender, smooth, brown to gray, often zigzag, pith white.

Blooms in late March to early May. Flowers small, 2–8 per cluster, on stalks ¼–¾ inch long; flowers 1/4–3/8 inch long, rose-purple, petals 5, in a typical pea-flower configuration.

Fruits pods 3–4 inches long, about ½ inch wide, tapering at the ends, leathery, reddish brown; seeds several, egg-shaped, flattened, 1/8–1/4 inch long. Pods often abundant, appearing September–October and persisting.

At maturity, to 40 feet tall; to 35 feet wide.
Habitat and conservation: 
Found in open woodland, borders of woods, dolomite glades, and along rocky streams and bluffs; also found in landscape plantings. In the wild, it is generally an understory tree.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common understory tree.
Human connections: 
Eastern redbud and its cultivars are favorite small, spring-flowering trees for landscaping; in fall the leaves turn yellow or greenish yellow. Many find the pods attractive as well. The flowers are edible and can be eaten in salads, either raw or pickled; in Mexico, they are fried.
Ecosystem connections: 
The seeds are eaten by several species of birds, and the foliage is browsed by white-tailed deer. The flowers are a springtime nectar source for bees. Redbud also provides cover for many mammals and birds.
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