Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

A common tree in the woods around Pittsburgh, and even more common in front yards, where it is a prized ornamental. The tree doesn’t get very tall, but in early spring it covers itself with magenta flowers that light up the forest. If you look at them closely, you can see that each flower is a perfect little pea blossom (although Gray calls it “imperfectly papilionaceous”), showing that this is an arboreal relative of our common beans or sweet peas.

This tree was beginning to bloom in late March in Bird Park, Mount Lebanon.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

CÉRCIS L. REDBUD. JUDAS TREE. Calyx 6 toothed. Corolla imperfectly papilionaceous; standard smaller than tbe wings and inclosed by them in the bud; the keel petals larger and not united. Stamens 10, distinct, declined. Pod oblong, flat, many-seeded, the upper suture with a winged margin. Embryo straight.—Trees, with rounded heart-shaped simple leaves, caducous stipules, and red-purple flowers in umbel-like clusters along the branches of the last or preceding years, appearing before the leaves, acid to the taste. (The ancient name of the oriental Judas Tree.)

C. canadensis L (REDBUD.) Leaves pointed; pods nearly sessile above the calyx.—Rich soil, N. Y.  and N. J. to Fla., w. to s. Ont., e. Neb., and Tex.—A small ornamental tree, often cultivated.

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