Cercis canadensis: This Fabaceae family member has prolific pink woodland flowers that can be seen just out of arms reach. A favorite among myself, nurserymen and homeowners, the redbud offers a variety of leaf color throughout the season with exceptional blooms that note the rise of spring. Many international readers may be familiar with its European/Mediterranean counterpart Cercis siliquastrum, Judas Tree, or Far East relative, the smaller and showier Cercis chinensis.
- Size/Habit/Lifetime: Bushy small tree in youth, developing many graceful arching branches on divided trunks with a flat topped shape. 20 to 30’ in height with similar spread on average. Champions being 40’.
- Culture: Zones 4 to 9. Northern varieties should be selected for northern climates and vice-versa. Greater Orlando areas are southern most limits. Full sun to light shade is best. Does well in many soils but native to organic, deep well drained soils. Balled and burlapped larger specimens can be transplanted successfully into deep well drained soil. Cannot take excessive moisture or drought, maintain accordingly.
- Leaf/Stem: Stems are slender, reddish-brown to black. Zig-Zag stem outline notifies this species. Leaves are broad ovate, generally heart shaped. Reddish purple when emerging after spring flowers, maturing to light green and deeper lustrous green in summer. Yellow fall color can be hit or miss depending on year, but should be taken into account.
- Flower/Fruit: Flowers in late Feb. in Florida, usually March-April farther north. Reddish purple in bud softening to a pink-whitish rose color after opening. Flowers remain showy for 2 to 3 weeks. Generally produced on stem nodes, while older trees can flower directly on the truck, below. Flowers at age 5-7.
- Use: Lucky property owners may find these in native woodland settings, but often used in street row plantings or groupings in back of borders for seasonal flowering effect. Specimen trees planted by themselves can be spectacular in both form and flower.
- Notable facts: Since it is a legume, the flowers are edible and can brighten up a spring salad, be pressed like a fritter when copious amounts are available, or used as garnish for entertaining food snobby friends.
:: Citation to Michael Dirr from UG for 50% of tree born content in Plant of the Week series
James Wheeler is a student of Landscape Architecture and Botany at the University of Florida and a contributing writer to Landscape Invocation.