Spring Jewel: The Eastern Redbud

Spring has officially arrived in central Virginia! Our native Eastern Redbud trees (Cercis Canadensis) have awakened from their winter slumber and are in full bloom. Redbuds reach their flowering peak when most shade trees are just beginning to leaf-out, so this time of year their brilliant sprays of pink jump out at you along the highways and back roads. The flowers almost glow against the lime green shade of new deciduous leaves and the dark green tones of neighboring evergreens.

Redbud trees peeking out from the woods

Redbud trees peeking out from the woods

The Eastern Redbud is native to the Blue Ridge and much of the Eastern U.S. Growing in moist, well-drained soils, frequently along woodland edges, they can reach 20 to 30 feet and six to 10 inches in diameter. In early spring, before the leaves form, bright pink to purple flowers, one-half inch long, appear in clusters along the twigs and small branches.

Eastern Redbud
A couple of weeks later, tiny leaves appear at the tips of the branches, signaling the end of the flower show. The dark green leaves are large and heart-shaped. Once the tree has leafed-out and the flowers have faded, large brown seed pods, two to four inches in length, will form. The seeds inside, which are brown and about a quarter of an inch long, will be mature before the end of summer and can be planted in the fall. Any seed with a hard outer coating like the redbud will need to be scarified (sanded or nicked) so water will reach the seed to cause germination.

Due to their manageable size, redbuds are a popular landscaping tree. As a member of the legume family, redbud roots are able to convert nitrogen from the air into a form plants can use, so this tree can grow in poor soil and can actually improve the soil in which it grows.

I was amazed when I looked at the date of the first picture in this post. It was taken on March 24, 2012, a full three weeks earlier than the second picture taken on April 15, 2013! I knew winter was slow to arrive in Virginia – this confirms just how slow.

23 thoughts on “Spring Jewel: The Eastern Redbud

  1. Your photos and commentary are a welcome breath of spring to a village where we woke up to 9″ of the white stuff. Trade ya’!

    • I think we got 9 inches of rain yesterday. Thankfully, it is bright and sunny today so all the plants and flowers can soak up the sun! You can keep your snow – I love snow in Minnesota. šŸ™‚

  2. I have always thought the Eastern Redbuds are so beautiful. I have even tried to grow them in my wetter Zone 8 environment with little luck. Your photos are so beautiful, thank you for sharing.

    • You’re welcome, Charlie. The countryside around us is loaded with redbuds, but we only have three on our farm. The blooming season is short-lived so we enjoy the beautiful flowers while they last.

  3. It is a beautiful tree, I know it as a garden tree, it’s good to see it in it’s natural habitat. Spring has arrived here at last too!

    • I think we have so many native redbuds that people around here don’t really think of them as a landscaping tree. Along some back roads, there are dozens of them just driving one mile.

    • I like to photograph plants growing in their natural setting, if possible, where they are in context with their surroundings. It will be hard though with the coming ephemerals because they are so small.

  4. Beautiful Tree and photos of them. Someone in my neighborhood has one out front of their house. My favorite tree to watch bloom in the Spring. Such lovely color. Enjoyed reading about them in your post too.

    • Sometimes it’s hard to focus on just one species, but right now, the redbuds are stealing the show. Next will come the dogwoods which are also native and plentiful here.

    • Thanks, Andrea. I am now following your blog and look forward to learning a lot more about cooking with wild greens and other goodies from the garden.

  5. Love this tree! Ours are in pretty much the same state of bloom here in Ohio right now. Spring was delayed a bit by that couple weeks of cold weather last March here.

  6. Hi Jo Ann, I hadn’t seen your post for awhile so I looked it up and realized I had dropped off the follower list. Sorry about that. I’ve re-signed up.
    My wife reads science and nature books in the evening while I do important stuff like blog about my bees. At breakfast we discuss the books or the blogs. A book that she just finished that we both enjoyed talking and learning from is “The Forest Unseen, A Year’s Watch in Nature,” by David Haskell. I thought about your love of nature and thought I’d mention it to you.

  7. Thanks for the heads up about the book. I will try to get my hands on it. The biologist/author that comes to mind when I think about writers who have taken the combination of science and a passion for nature to an art form is Rachel Carson – a brilliant writer.

  8. So beautiful I can’t think of anything similar in the UK glad Spring is on it’s way for you it seems a bit warmer here!


    • It seems I look forward to spring a little bit more each year. Maybe because I’m getting older, I appreciate the season of renewal more.:)

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