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Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Rosales: Fabaceae: Cercis canadensis
Common Name: Information Sheet, Eastern Redbud

Country: USA
State/District: MD
County: Montgomery
Date (D-M-Y): 14 - 4 - 2001

Photographer: E. M. Barrows

Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Collector: not applicable
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Keywords: a Forest Ecology information sheet magenta flower pink flower red flower Eastern Redbud tree white flower
Additional Information:

Eastern Redbuds are ablaze with pink, magenta, or sometimes white flowers in spring before their leaves expand.   The flowers give life to many bees species, including the Giant Carpenter Bee, which feed on their nectar and pollen and also feed them to their young.   All of these photos are from 14 April 2001.

Figure 1.   A cultivated tree in Montgomery County, MD.
Figure 2.   A cultivated tree in Montgomery County, MD.
Figure 3.   Flowers that emerged from the trunk of a cultivated tree in Montgomery County, MD.
Figure 4.   Flowers that emerged from the trunk of a cultivated tree in Montgomery County, MD.

Information Sheet, Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis Linnaeus, Eastern Redbud, Redbud

[Latin Cercis, the ancient name for the oriental Judas-tree; canadensis, Canadian]
[redbud, probably after the reddish flower buds which are really magenta through pink through purple]
(Sutton & Sutton 1985, plates 62, 146; Kricher & Morrison 1998, 141)

Habit.   Tree, mature specimens sometimes less than 15 ft tall.   Trunk: short.   Crown: rounded with spreading branches.   Leaf: heart-shaped, toothless.   Flowers: shades of pink and purple, sometimes white; trees, showy in flower.   Fruit: legume.

General roles in forests.   Eastern Redbud is an autotroph that lives in forests, forest edges, fields, successional areas, a yards, and elsewhere.   Monocultures of Eastern Redbud grow along some highways.   This species is drought resistant and can grow in full sun as well as in partial shade.   Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living Eastern Redbud fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.

Specific roles in forests.   Leaf and stem feeders (parasites) of U.S. redbud species include 1 beetle sp., 2 bug spp., 1 mite sp., 4 moth spp., 13 scale spp., 1 treehopper sp., and 1 whitefly sp. (Westcott 1973, 589).   Leaf-cutter bees cut approximately circular pieces of leaves of Eastern Redbud (as well as other species).   The bees do not eat the leaves, but use them as lining in their brood cell in their subterranean nests.   Nectar and pollen feeders (parasites, pollinators, predators) include beetle spp., butterfly spp., the Giant Carpenter Bee, other bee spp., flower-fly spp., other fly spp., moth spp., and wasp spp.   Eastern Redbuds are a minor honey plants for Honey Bees in the continental U.S. (Pellett 1978).

Human uses.   We plant Eastern Redbuds as ornamental, shade trees. Some people use flowering limbs in bouquets. Eastern Redbuds can live under Black Walnut trees (which see), unlike many other kinds of trees.   Some people eat the flower buds, flowers, and young legumes fresh, fried, pickled, and sauteed (Peterson 1977, 112).   We obtain a red dye from its roots.   In some areas of the U.S., we use Eastern Redbud wood.

Comments.   In the WDC Area Eastern Redbuds usually peak in flowering before Eastern Flowering Dogwoods; sometimes they peak together in great beauty, with ER with different tints of magenta and purple and the EFDs white bright white (through deep pink) bracts and green flowers.   The Eastern Redbud is an exceptional legume tree because it does not have nitrogen-fixing root nodules.   According to myth, Judas Iscariot hanged himself on the related Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum Linnaeus) of western Asia and southern Europe, after which its white flowers turned red with shame, blood, or both.   However, Redbud flowers are not blood red.

E.M.B. (2002)

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