Sunday 19 May
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Eastern redbud fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Eastern redbud description
One of the first trees to bloom in early spring, the eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is an attractive species which produces one of North America’s most spectacular floral displays. Its showy profusion of small, pink to purplish flowers is borne in clusters over the entire tree, including the branches and trunk, and appears before the leaves have opened (3) (4) (5) (6) (7).
A small, deciduous tree, the eastern redbud usually has a short trunk and a spreading or oval-shaped crown (3) (4). Its thin bark is usually dark or reddish-brown and becomes scaly on older trees (2) (3).
Unlike most other members of the pea family (Fabaceae), the eastern redbud is unusual in producing leaves that comprise single rather than multiple leaflets (2) (4). The leaves grow at alternating points along the stems, and are heart- or kidney-shaped, with long, slender stalks, smooth margins, prominent veins and a tapering tip (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (8). The leaves of the eastern redbud become dark green with age, before turning bright yellow in the autumn (3) (8). Each leaf measures around 7.5 to 12.5 centimetres in both length and width (4).
The flowers of the eastern redbud are borne on slender stalks, in clusters of four to eight (3) (4). Each flower measures up to 1.2 centimetres in length (4) and has 5 rounded petals and 10 stamens (3) (5) (8). The petals are arranged in a ‘butterfly’ shape, with a small upper petal enclosed by two lateral ‘wing’ petals, and two lower petals which are more or less fused to form a ‘keel’ (3) (9). The fruit of the eastern redbud is a flat, leathery, thin-walled pod, which is oblong in shape and reddish-brown when mature (2) (3) (5) (6) (8). The pod measures up to ten centimetres in length (2) (4) (8) and splits along two lines to release several hard, brown seeds (2) (3) (6), which are oval and somewhat flattened (2) (3).
Three varieties of the eastern redbud are recognised: Cercis canadensis var. canadensis (eastern redbud), Cercis canadensis var. mexicana (Mexican redbud) and Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) (5) (7) (8) (10) (11). The eastern redbud is a popular ornamental tree and a number of commercially cultivated forms also exist, which vary in the colour and shape of their flowers and leaves (6) (7).
- Also known as
- Canadian redbud, Judas tree, Mexican redbud, redbud, Texas redbud.
- Cercis reniformis. Top
USDA-NRCS Plant Guide - Eastern redbud:
Center for Plant Conservation:
- A plant that sheds its leaves at the end of the growing season.
- The individual ‘leaf-like’ parts of a compound leaf.
- The transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
- The male reproductive organ of a flower. Each stamen is comprised of an anther (the pollen-producing organ) and a filament (stalk).
- In taxonomy, the science of classifying organisms, variety is the rank below subspecies. Members of a variety differ from others of the same species in relatively minor ways.
IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
- Preston Jr, R.J. and Braham, R.R. (2002) North American Trees. Fifth Edition. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa.
- Leopold, D.J. (2003) Trees of New York State: Native and Naturalized. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.
- Nelson, G. (2011) The Trees of Florida: A Reference and Field Guide. Second Edition. Pineapple Press, Sarasota, Florida.
- Powell, A.M. (1998) Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.
Brakie, M. (2010) Plant Fact Sheet for Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, East Texas Plant Materials Center, Nacogdoches, Texas. Available at:
- Bajaj, Y.P.S. (Ed.) (1991) Biotechnology in Agriculture and Forestry 16. Trees III. Springer-Verlag, Berlin and Heidelberg.
USDA-NRCS Plant Guide - Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis (September, 2011)
- Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (September, 2011)
USDA PLANTS Database - Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis (September, 2011)
- Petrides, G.A. (1988) A Field Guide to Eastern Trees: Eastern United States and Canada, Including the Midwest. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
Arizona Game and Fish Department - Status Definitions (September, 2011)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Eastern redbud biology
The eastern redbud flowers in early spring, usually between March and May, with the flowers appearing before the leaves have opened (3) (4) (5) 6) (7). The showy flowers are bisexual, containing both male and female reproductive organs (3) (4) (9), and are pollinated by bees (3) (6) (8).
The seeds of the eastern redbud usually ripen from July to August, or sometimes later (12), and are often eaten by birds and squirrels (3) (6) (8) (12). This colourful tree reaches maturity in about 75 years (3).
Unlike most members of the Fabaceae family, the eastern redbud is unusual in that it does not possess specialised root nodules containing nitrogen-fixing bacteria (12), which in other species take nitrogen from the air and convert it to nitrogen-containing compounds that benefit the plant (9). The bark of this species has been used by people for various medicinal purposes, and its flowers are sometimes eaten (2) (5) (6) (8) (12).Top
Eastern redbud range
The variety Cercis canadensis var. canadensis occurs in Canada and the eastern U.S., while Cercis canadensis var.texensis occurs in the south-western U.S. and Cercis canadensis var.mexicana occurs in the south-western U.S. and into Mexico (5) (7).Top
Eastern redbud habitat
Typically growing on rich, moist, sandy or loam soils (soils containing sand, clay and organic matter) (3) (6), the eastern redbud is an understory species that can be found in open woods, ravines, along the borders of streams and in brushy areas (3) (5) (6) (8). It is most common on well-drained sites on south-facing slopes, and does not tolerate flooding (3) (6).Top
Eastern redbud status
The eastern redbud is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Eastern redbud threats
There are not known to be any major threats to the eastern redbud, and it is not currently considered at risk of extinction (1). This species is widely cultivated in the United States and other countries for its ornamental value (3) (8).
However, some local populations of the eastern redbud may be under some degree of threat, with the species being listed as ‘Endangered’ in New Jersey and as ‘Special Concern’ in Connecticut (11).Top
Eastern redbud conservation
Its listing as a threatened species in New Jersey and Connecticut may offer the eastern redbud a degree of legal protection in these states (11). In Arizona, the eastern redbud is listed as ‘Salvage Restricted’ (11), meaning that it can only be collected with a permit (13).
There are not known to be any other specific conservation measures currently in place for the eastern redbud.Top
Find out more
Find out more about the eastern redbud:
Find out more about plant conservation in the United States:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
This species is featured in:
This species is featured in the Wisconsin's Northwoods eco-region
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.