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After the long winter, redbud cloaks its branches with tight clusters of dark pink flowers, bringing delight to humans and eager spring pollinators. Due in part to redbud’s ability to feed these early foragers, redbud is rated as one of our top-ten most important native flowering trees. Small, graceful, and often multi-trunked, redbud is equally happy as an understory tree or sited in full sun. Besides its glorious burst of color that lasts up to three weeks, it has large, 3-5” heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow in fall, and attractive, flat pods that contain seeds consumed by birds and other wildlife. A common name, Judas tree, is thought to have come from the belief that a related species, C. siliquatrum, was the tree upon which Judas Iscariot hanged himself.


Commonly found in the southern two-thirds of Ohio—less so in northern Ohio—in forests, woodlands, savannas, and along streams and rivers. A charming specimen tree and ethereal massed in groups, particularly as woodland understory. When siting, be mindful of its sensitivity to herbicides and chemicals sprayed on lawns. Appreciates some protection to prevent branch breakage, sometimes a problem in high winds.


Plant Characteristics:

Grows 15-30’ tall with a spread slightly larger.


Flourishes in full sun to mostly shade.


Prefers average to moist, well-drained soils. Does poorly in water-logged or dry, sandy soils.


Purplish, legume-shaped seed pods turn brown with maturity and persist through winter.


Often multi-trunked with brownish-black bark, orange inner bark, and flattened ridges. Has a quirky tendency to bloom along the trunk.


Wildlife Value:

Host plant for 24 species of Lepidoptera, including the white flannel moth, Henry’s elfin butterfly, and three specialist moths whose caterpillars can feed only on the leaves of native redbud:  redbud leaffolder (pics here in order), promiscuous angle and Cenopis chambersana. Flowers are visited by hummingbirds, butterflies, honey bees, and many species of native bees, such as long-tongued and leaf cutters. The seeds are eaten by finches, juncos, nuthatches, cardinals, rose-breasted grosbeaks, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and squirrels. The red-leafed cultivars of redbud derive their color from anthocyanins, plant chemicals that make their foliage bitter and inedible to caterpillars.


Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Early settlers and Native Americans used the bark to treat dysentery, whooping cough, and leukemia. The roots and inner bark were used for fevers, congestion, and vomiting.


The flowers, which are high in vitamin C, are beautiful sprinkled on salads and incorporated into baked goods, and have a sweet pea-like flavor. Young leaf and flower buds, along with young seed pods, may be sautéed with greens or added into a stir fry. Seed pods should be harvested when very immature, and have a sharply tart flavor that, when minced, makes an interesting addition to salads.


Branches and stems have been used for basket-making.

Redbud, Cercis canadensis

Excluding Sales Tax
Ready for Summer/Fall Pickup
  • For summer planting, water deeply 1-2 times weekly 


    For fall planting, water every 1-2 weeks; water more often during prolonged hot, dry spells

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