Flora Feature: Eastern Redbud

Perhaps one of America’s most beloved native trees, the Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis is certainly putting on a show at Madison Square Park. A favorite of native plant societies, this tree is native to eastern and central North America from Connecticut to New York to southern Ontario and the Great Lakes south to Western Texas and Florida. It can be found in the wild in woodlands, thickets, and rocky streams on the east coast. Cercis canadensis is the state tree of Oklahoma.

If you aren’t familiar with the Redbud, be sure to swing by the Park and see one of our twelve varieties in bloom now. The American Redbud is an incredibly versatile small tree, tolerating both sun and shade, and generally remaining under 20 ft in height. The common name, Redbud, stems from the plants red to white  flower buds which appear in early April. These buds can be found distributed throughout the base of the tree’s trunk and branches, and are not limited to the tips of branches like many other flowering trees. Flowers are followed by flattened leguminous bean-like dry seedpods that may remain throughout the winter.

While many might love this plant for its flowers, these plants have all season interest. Redbuds have strikingly beautiful, large, heart-shaped leaves. Many of our species have variegated foliage with marbled white coloring, red to burgundy foliage, and even one that turns from peach to lime green as the summer progresses. The trees can vary considerably in habit as well, many cultivars show weeping and contorted habits.

Our current Redbud collection in the Park is quite extensive. Our most recent plantings include C. ‘Pauline Lily’ that has very light pink flowers, and C. ‘Vanilla Twist’ which is a weeping white flowered variety. We hope to incorporate 22 new varieties of Redbud into the Park’s collection within the next five years.

Photos by Rashmi Gill.