Eastern Redbud

Media
Illustration of eastern redbud leaves, flowers, fruits.
Scientific Name
Cercis canadensis
Family
Caesalpiniaceae (sennas); sometimes in Fabaceae (beans, peas)
Description

Eastern redbud is a shrub or small tree. It is very ornamental in spring with small, clustered, rose-purple flowers covering the bare branches before the leaves.

Leaves are 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 are 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 ¼–⅜ inch long, rose-purple, petals 5, in a typical pea-flower configuration.

Fruits are pods 3–4 inches long, about ½ inch wide, tapering at the ends, leathery, reddish brown; seeds several, egg-shaped, flattened, ⅛–¼ inch long. Pods often abundant, appearing September–October and persisting.

Size

At maturity, to 40 feet tall; to 35 feet wide.

Where To Find
image of Eastern Redbud distribution map

Statewide.

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.

Common understory tree.

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. Our woodlands in spring are beautified by clouds of blooming understory trees, notably the magenta of redbuds and the white of dogwoods, a boon to Missouri tourism.

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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Similar Species

Where to See Species

Gallatin Conservation Area is in Daviess County, five miles south of Gallatin on Highway 13 and a half mile east on Route M.
Poosey Conservation Area is in northwest Livingston County, six miles southeast of Jamesport, nine miles northeast of Lock Springs, 12 miles southwest of Trenton and 13 miles northwest of Chillicothe.
About Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines in Missouri
There are no sharp dividing lines between trees, shrubs, and woody vines, or even between woody and nonwoody plants. “Wood” is a type of tissue made of cellulose and lignin that many plants develop as they mature — whether they are “woody” or not. Trees are woody plants over 13 feet tall with a single trunk. Shrubs are less than 13 feet tall, with multiple stems. Vines require support or else sprawl over the ground.