Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis L.) is a large shrub or small tree native to eastern North America from southern Ontario, Canada south to northern Florida, United States.
It typically grows to 8-12 m tall, with a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches. The bark is dark in color, smooth, later scaly with ridges somewhat apparent, sometimes with maroon patches. The twigs are slender and zigzag, nearly black in color, spotted with lighter lenticels. The winter buds are tiny, rounded and dark red to chestnut in color. The leaves are alternate, simple, cordate in shape with an entire margin, 7-12 cm (3-5 inches) long and wide, thin and papery, and may be slightly hairy below.
The flowers are showy, light to dark pink in color, 1.5 cm (½ inch) long, appearing in clusters from March to May, on bare stems before the leaves, sometimes on the trunk itself. The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees such as blueberry bees and carpenter bees. Short-tongued bees apparently cannot reach the nectaries. The fruit are flattened, dry, brown, pea-like pods, 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) long that contain flat, elliptical, brown seeds 6 mm (¼ inch) long, maturing in August to October.
In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from the Eastern redbud were once used as seasoning for wild game such as venison and opossum. Because of this, in these mountain areas the Eastern redbud was, and in a few locales still is, known as the spicewood tree.
In the wild, Eastern redbud is a frequent native understory tree in mixed forests and hedgerows. It is also much planted as a landscape ornamental plant. The leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, for example the Io moth (Automeris io).
The redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma.
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