Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Redbud Tree

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit my family in the great state of Oklahoma. While there I not only experienced “cold core” tornadoes but also the beauty of the Oklahoma state tree, the Redbud.

After doing much research, I have come to the conclusion that there is the Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) with the Texas variety being (Cercis canadensis var. texensis). The Texas redbud grows in thin, calcareous well-drained soils (now get this) west of the eastern redbud's native habitat. It is smaller and more drought tolerant than its eastern relative, with thick, leathery, much smaller leaves that have wavy margins. In early spring, before leaf-out, a profusion of small, sweet pea–shaped, lavender-pink to rosy purple flowers appears on twigs, branches, and even the main trunk. It is most commonly multi-trunked. Many trees are sterile and produce no fruit. Here in the piney woods, the redbud is a frequent native understory tree and when blooming makes a colorful statement with our pine trees as a backdrop.
Redbuds in Edmond, OK

Photo courtesy of Butterflies of Massachusetts
Here are a couple of interesting facts about the redbud. The Cercis siliquastrum, or Judas tree, lives in Mediterranean and Asia minor countries. This tree is the one most associated as "Judea's tree" and is supposedly the tree Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Christ. In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from the Eastern redbud are used as seasoning for wild game such as venison and opossum (probably needs lots of seasoning). Because of this, in these mountain areas the Eastern redbud is sometimes known as the spicewood tree. Also the redbud found in the Appalachians is the larval host for the Henry's Elfin butterfly.

My favorite redbud cultivar is the Forest Pansy Redbud. It blooms as pretty as the Texas redbud but the difference is its purple leaves. The heart-shaped leaves open bright reddish-purple and gradually mature to a more muted purple (or purplish green) in our hot summer climate. 

For a beautiful view of Oklahoma redbuds, visit my friend's (Linda) blog, The Potager, at:

Although short blooming, the redbud is a sure sign of spring and one of our most charming native trees. So leafing you on a high note - sing along with one of two state songs that everyone knows by clicking below.

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