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Western Redbud Cercis canadensis var. orbiculata

Previously known as:

  • Cercis occidentalis var. orbiculata
  • Cercis orbiculata
Phonetic Spelling
SER-sis kan-a-DEN-sis or-bick-yoo-LAY-tuh
Description

Western redbud is a small, flowering tree or shrub in the Fabaceae (bean) family. In its native habitat, it is found on the dry slopes on coast ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills in the southwestern United States, as well as along stream banks, canyons, and yellow-pine forests. It is frequently seen in the Grand Canyon. The genus name Cercis comes from the Greek word kerkis, which means weaver's shuttle, referring to the fact that the seed pod resembles the size and shape of a weaver's shuttle used to move thread back and forth on a loom. 

Western redbud reaches 15 to 25 feet high and wide. It grows in full sun to partial shade and in all types of soil, moist to occasionally dry. However, it prefers the soil to be neutral to slightly alkaline. Needing a winter chill before the flowers set properly, a location with four seasons is necessary. If planted where it does not have the four seasons, it may not go into dormancy, or may not come out of dormancy. If you live in a location that doesn't experience frost, this specimen is not for you.

The bark and young shoots have been used in making basketry by indigenous societies. Native Americans used the wood to make bows and highly valued this plant for its red young branches.  

Plant western redbud in a naturalized area, on a slope or bank, or beside a walkway or patio. It works well as a specimen or accent, as well as in a mass planting in the back of a border, or as a flowering screen. Use it in a pollinator, butterfly, children’s, or native garden.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Scale and blight are occasional problems. 

VIDEO Created by Elizabeth Meyer for "Trees, Shrubs and Conifers" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.

More information on Cercis canadensis.

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Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#edible flowers#nectar plant#native bees#showy leaves#low maintenance#flowering tree#showy fruits#small mammals#deer browsing plant#ornamentals#children's garden#red stems#playground plant#screening#pollinator plant#deciduous tree#border back#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#short lived blooms#ornamental tree#shrub borders#heart-shaped leaves
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#showy flowers#deciduous#small tree#specimen#shrub#wildlife plant#native tree#edible flowers#nectar plant#native bees#showy leaves#low maintenance#flowering tree#showy fruits#small mammals#deer browsing plant#ornamentals#children's garden#red stems#playground plant#screening#pollinator plant#deciduous tree#border back#clay soils tolerant#bird friendly#dry soils tolerant#butterfly friendly#bee friendly#short lived blooms#ornamental tree#shrub borders#heart-shaped leaves
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cercis
    Species:
    canadensis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Native Americans make bows from the wood and baskets from the young stems.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southwestern U.S.A.
    Distribution:
    AZ, CA, NV, UT
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The nectar from the flowers attracts butterflies and bees. Native bees use this plant for nesting materials. Birds enjoy the legumes seeds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Edible fruit
    Screening
    Wildlife Food Source
    Edibility:
    The flowers and seed pods are edible.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 15 ft. 0 in. - 25 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    > 3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is in the form of a pointed, flat legume that range from 2-4" in length. Each pod will contain 7 seeds and will remain on the tree into winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Early spring showy pea-like flowers appear
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The heart shaped leaves each have 7 to 9 prominent veins.
  • Bark:
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Thin, shiny brown branches.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Patio
    Recreational Play Area
    Slope/Bank
    Walkways
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Songbirds