Saturday, January 17, 2009

EASTERN REDBUD - Cercis canadensis, Linn

EASTERN REDBUD LENDS a quaint charm to the Missouri hillsides in early spring when the pink hues of the flowers are in sharp contrast with the brown leaves covering the forest floor.It is believed by some that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had a hand in naming this tree. Legend has it that it was this tree upon which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Each year in remorse it weeps tears of blood-like blossoms at Easter time. Blossom time coincides with that of serviceberry and wild plum. In most years it blooms slightly before dogwood.

This is a legume and the fruit is a pod. The flat pod is two to three inches long and hangs onto the twigs throughout the winter. Bright reddish, pea-like blossoms are clustered along the twigs before the leaf buds unfold.Heart-shaped leaves identify this tree. They are dark green in summer, turning yellow in autumn.Bark is red-brown, separating into thin scales. Trees growing rapidly will produce heavy flaking of bark, giving the trunk a diseased appearance. Diameters seldom exceed six inches while heights rarely exceed 15 feet.

Eastern redbud is distributed over the entire state and often can be found growing in abandoned fields, in open woods, and along fence rows. While it is a valuable and widely used ornamental, it has little value as a commercial timber tree because of its small size. However, its wood is a soft brown color, very durable, hard, and takes a fine polish.Beavers use the bark as a source of food while birds make the small, hard, bony seed a part of their wintertime diet.


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