Cercis canadensis

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Cercis canadensis
Eastern redbud near Cincinnati, Ohio
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Cercis
C. canadensis
Binomial name
Cercis canadensis
Cercis canadensis range map 2.png
Natural range of the eastern redbud

Cercis canadensis, the eastern redbud, is a large deciduous shrub or small tree, native to eastern North America from southern Ontario, south to northern Florida but which can thrive as far west as California. It is the state tree of Oklahoma.



The eastern redbud typically grows to 6–9 m (20–30 ft) tall with an 8–10 m (26–33 ft) spread. It generally has a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches. A 10-year-old tree will generally be around 5 m (16 ft) tall. The bark is dark in color, smooth, later scaly with ridges somewhat apparent, sometimes with maroon patches. The twigs are slender and zigzag, nearly black in color, spotted with lighter lenticels. The winter buds are tiny, rounded and dark red to chestnut in color. The leaves are alternate, simple, and heart shaped with an entire margin, 7–12 cm (3–4.5 in) long and wide, thin and papery, and may be slightly hairy below.

The flowers are showy, light to dark magenta pink in color, 1.5 cm (12 in) long, appearing in clusters from Spring to early Summer, on bare stems before the leaves, sometimes on the trunk itself. The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees such as blueberry bees and carpenter bees. Short-tongued bees apparently cannot reach the nectaries. The fruit are flattened, dry, brown, pea-like pods, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long that contain flat, elliptical, brown seeds 6 mm (14 in) long, maturing in August to October.

Eastern redbud blossoms Redbud.jpg
Eastern redbud blossoms

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.

In the wild, eastern redbud is a frequent native understory tree in mixed forests and hedgerows. It is also much planted as a landscape ornamental plant. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, for example Henry's Elfin, the Redbud Leaffolde r, the white flannel moth, the American dagger moth, the grape leaffolder, and the Io moth (Automeris io).

Redbud in Columbus, Wisconsin Columbus Wisconsin Redbud Tree small.jpg
Redbud in Columbus, Wisconsin
Detail of buds RedbudsOhio.jpg
Detail of buds
C. canadensis Leaf Cercis Canadensis Leaf.png
C. canadensis Leaf
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' leaves. Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' JPG1Fe.jpg
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' leaves.
Carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) on redbud flowers. Xylocopa 9789.JPG
Carpenter bee ( Xylocopa virginica ) on redbud flowers.

In the United States, this tree is difficult to grow farther west into arid areas west of western Kansas and Colorado, as there is not sufficient annual precipitation. Its far northern range of growth is the lower Midwest, Ohio Valley, to the south of Boston. There has been success with growing the tree in Columbus, Wisconsin, which has become known as the "Columbus Strain" and a seed source for nurseries.


C. canadensis is grown in parks and gardens, with several cultivars being available. The cultivars 'Forest Pansy' [3] and 'Ruby Falls' [4] have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (confirmed 2017). [5]


The flowers can be eaten fresh or fried. [6]

Native Americans consumed redbud flowers raw or boiled, and ate roasted seeds. Analysis of nutritional components in edible parts of eastern redbud reported that:

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<i>Callophrys henrici</i> species of insect

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  1. Hilton-Taylor (2000). "Cercis canadensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . IUCN. 2000. Retrieved 5 May 2006.
  2. Keeler, Harriet L. (1900). Our Native Trees and How to Identify Them. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp.  104–108.
  3. "RHS Plant Selector Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'". Apps.rhs.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  4. "RHS Plantfinder - Cercis canadensis 'Ruby Falls'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  5. "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 16. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
  6. Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 491. ISBN   0394507614.
  7. Laura J. Hunter, et al. 2006. Analysis of nutritional components in edible parts of eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis L.). 62nd Southwest Regional American Chemical Society Meeting, Houston, Texas.