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American Redbud Cercis canadensis

Previously known as:

  • Cercis canadensis var. alba
  • Cercis dilatata
  • Siliquastrum canadense
Phonetic Spelling
SER-sis kan-a-DEN-sis
Description

Cercis canadensis, or Eastern Redbud, is a deciduous, ornamental tree that may grow over 30 feet tall and a diameter of 6 to 10 inches with 1 or 2 main trunks and stout branches that form a wide, flat head. Sometimes called the Judas tree, from its oriental relative of that name, it is small tree that is often found growing beneath taller trees, on the borders of fields, or hillsides and valleys throughout North Carolina. It is abundant in the Piedmont, but less so in the western mountains.

The tree is PH adaptable and can tolerate full sun or part shade and clay or sandy soil. However, it is intolerant of heat or drought that can stress the tree, wet soils, and is susceptible to pest and disease problems. It does not tolerate root disturbance, so plants should be placed in their permanent positions as soon as possible and should be kept well watered until established Because the branches can tend to break, the tree should be sited in a relatively protected area. The Eastern Redbud is a flowering tree that blooms in early spring before the leaves appear. 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. Eastern Redbud produces a 2 to 4 inch flattened legume that contains brown seeds. Plant this small tree as a specimen, as an understory tree, or in small groups for a dramatic springtime effect when mass planted in a landscape. 

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, typically living less than 75 years. Keep the tree vigorous by regular watering and fertilization and by pruning out dead branches as needed.

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

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Sloped Front Yard Pollinator Garden- Partial Shade Woodland Walk Pollinator Garden- Partial Shade Four-Season Garden Pinehurst Greenway Pollinator Habitat Garden, Moore County
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Ace of Hearts', 'Alba', 'Appalachian Red', 'Avondale', 'Covey', 'Flame', 'Floating Clouds', 'Forest Pansy', 'Geralds Pink', 'Hearts of Gold', 'JN2' The Rising Sun™, 'Lavendar Twist', 'Merlot', 'NCCC1', 'Rising Sun', 'Ruby Falls', 'Tennessee Pink', 'Texas White', var. canadensis, var. mexicana, var. orbiculata, var. texensis, 'Whitewater'
Tags:
#sun#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#understory#full sun#partial shade#edible plant#specimen#wildlife plant#pink flowers#showy#native tree#edible flowers#native shrub#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#tsc#fall interest#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#black walnut#showy bark#stream banks#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer browsing plant#deer resistant#fire resistant#fall fruits#seedpods#dry seedpods#leaf cutter#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#early spring flowers#larval host plant#clay soils tolerant#nectar plant late spring#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#woodlands#henry’s elfin butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Ace of Hearts', 'Alba', 'Appalachian Red', 'Avondale', 'Covey', 'Flame', 'Floating Clouds', 'Forest Pansy', 'Geralds Pink', 'Hearts of Gold', 'JN2' The Rising Sun™, 'Lavendar Twist', 'Merlot', 'NCCC1', 'Rising Sun', 'Ruby Falls', 'Tennessee Pink', 'Texas White', var. canadensis, var. mexicana, var. orbiculata, var. texensis, 'Whitewater'
Tags:
#sun#showy flowers#deciduous#fall color#yellow#understory#full sun#partial shade#edible plant#specimen#wildlife plant#pink flowers#showy#native tree#edible flowers#native shrub#low maintenance#spring flowers#winter interest#tsc#fall interest#understory tree#flowering tree#street tree#black walnut#showy bark#stream banks#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer browsing plant#deer resistant#fire resistant#fall fruits#seedpods#dry seedpods#leaf cutter#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#early spring flowers#larval host plant#clay soils tolerant#nectar plant late spring#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#nectar plant early spring#tsc-t#pollinator garden#woodlands#henry’s elfin butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Cercis
    Species:
    canadensis
    Family:
    Fabaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Wood is heavy, hard, but not strong with little commercial value. 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 used 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. Caterpillars appear from February to May and have one flight. Adult Henry's Elfin butterflies feed on flower nectar. Songbirds and small mammals occasionally eat the seeds. Nitrogen-fixer.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    deer, black walnut, and clay soils
    Edibility:
    The flowers are edible and taste similar to peas. Contain high amounts of vitamin C.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 20 ft. 0 in. - 30 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 35 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant 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
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    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, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • 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, oblong seedpods (with about 9 seeds per pod) which are about 2 to 4 inches long. The brown seed pods can look a little untidy hanging from the tree into the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Umbel
    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:
    Conspicuous bright-red flowers bloom in early spring (around April) and are anywhere from pink to red 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. Pea-shaped flowers, borne in tight clusters on old wood, fascicled or racemous, often cauliflorous. Blooms from March to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant 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 heart-shaped leaves, 3 to 5 inches long and wide, with smooth, 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 to 5 inches high and wide, 7 palmate veins extend from leaf base.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Black
    Dark Brown
    Orange
    Surface/Attachment:
    Scaly
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Dark brown to black with orange inner bark that can be visible. Smooth when young, but developing long, narrow plates that separate into scales as the tree matures.
  • 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
    Compaction
    Deer
    Fire
    Problems:
    Short-lived