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American Judas Tree Cercis canadensis

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Cercis canadensis var. alba
  • Cercis dilatata
  • Siliquastrum canadense
Description

Eastern Redbud is a deciduous tree that may grow over 30 feet tall. The leaves are alternate and heart-shaped with a smooth margin. The bark is smooth and brown in young trees. As the tree ages, scaly ridges and furrows develop. In early spring, clusters of pink to light purple flowers mature. The small tree produces a 2- to 4-inch flattened legume that contains brown seeds. Plant this small tree as a specimen, as an understory tree, in small groups or it really pops when mass planted in a landscape.  

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Insects, Diseases and Other Plant Problems: Leafhoppers, caterpillars, borers, Japanese beetles, treehoppers, scale, and webworms are insects that are pest. Possible diseases include canker, dieback, leaf spots, verticillium wilt, blights, and mildew.  It is very sensitive to herbicides and chemicals sprayed on lawns.  It can be a short-lived plant.

Family name Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Quick ID Hints:

  • Small tree with 1-2 main trunks & heart-shaped leaves
  • Pea-like flowers borne in bunches on twigs/ old wood
  • Fruit is flat 'bean' pod
  • Leaves with 7 palmate veins, entire

Blooms in early spring before leaves; tree-like with 1 or 2 main trunks (compare to C. chinensis with several trunks); a native tree. 

PH adaptable; tolerant of full sun or part shade; tolerant of clay or sandy soil; intolerant of heat/drought stress; intolerant wet soils; pest/disease problems.

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Forest Pansy'
    Purple leaves, susceptible to verticillium. Var. alba has white flowers and comes true to type from seed.
Tags:
#pink#sun#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#understory#full sun#partial shade#specimen#wildlife plant#pink flowers#showy#native tree#native shrub#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#host plant#fall interest#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#black walnut#showy bark#stream banks#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer damage#deer resistant#fire resistant#woodland#fall fruits#seedpods#dry seedpods#leaf cutter#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#early spring flowers#larval host plant#clay soils tolerant#butterfly friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Forest Pansy'
    Purple leaves, susceptible to verticillium. Var. alba has white flowers and comes true to type from seed.
Tags:
#pink#sun#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#understory#full sun#partial shade#specimen#wildlife plant#pink flowers#showy#native tree#native shrub#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#host plant#fall interest#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#black walnut#showy bark#stream banks#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer damage#deer resistant#fire resistant#woodland#fall fruits#seedpods#dry seedpods#leaf cutter#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#early spring flowers#larval host plant#clay soils tolerant#butterfly friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cercis
    Species:
    canadensis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The bark used as an astringent in treatment of dysentery, flowers eaten in salads or fried, Native Americans boiled the bark to make tea to treat whooping cough, roots and inner bark utilized for fevers, congestion, and vomiting
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern and central North America, NC to E. Mexico
    Distribution:
    New Mexico north to Nebraska east to Michigan and Ontario south through Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to Florida
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    12 species of Lepidoptera use this tree as a larval host plant. Leafcutter bees (such as Megachile rotundata) use this plant (as shown in a picture).Host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly. Butterflies and other insects nectar from the flowers. Songbirds and small mammals occasionally eat the seeds. Nitrogen-fixer.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    deer, black walnut, and clay soils
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
  • 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
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    24-60 feet
    NC Region:
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Legume
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    By summer (after flowers) but possibly lasting through fall and even winter, this plant has green turning to brown, flat seedpods (with about 9 seeds per pod) which are about 3" long. The brown seed pods can look a little untidy. A legume, reddish-green ripening to brown or brownish-black, 2-3" x 0.5".
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Irregular
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    fused petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers bloom in early spring (around April) and are anywhere from pink to rose to purple in color. Unlike many other plants, the flowers are seen before the leaves! Only about 1/2 inch wide and having about 7 flowers in a cluster, these flowers grow right on new stems as well as older branches. (2-8) reddish purple to rosy pink or lilac (rarely white), pea-like, borne in tight clusters on old wood, fascicled or racemous, often cauliflorous.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Simple, alternate cordate to ovate, 3"-5" long and wide, entire margins. Bases are cordate, acute apex, with swelling on petioles just underneath the leaf plate. Attractive yellow fall color. Broadly cordate, acute, entire, lustrous dark green, 1.5-5" high and wide, 7 veins extend from leaf base.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Orange
    Bark Description:
    Dark brown with orange inner bark that can be visible.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Buds:
    Smooth/Hairless
    Stem Form:
    Zig Zags
    Stem Lenticels:
    Not Conspicuous
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Slender, glabrous, dark reddish brown to black, zig-zag, spreading and ascending; trunk usually divided close to ground.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Flowering Tree
    Small groups
    Specimen
    Street Tree
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Fire
    Problems:
    Short-lived