Steve Bender

It’s the native tree that keeps on giving.

A regular commenter on my various Facebook pages, Leslie Jennifer Putin-Allanson thinks I don’t say enough nice things about native plants. To refute this slanderous allegation, I present a native spring-flowering tree that’s as easy to grow as its gets – Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).

Boy, is it easy.

Growing 15 to 25 feet tall and wide, Eastern redbud is distinguished by heart-shaped leaves that often turn a nice yellow in fall, as well as by showy, lavender-pink to rosy-purple, pea-shaped blossoms that appear on leafless branches in March and April. Here’s a horticultural nugget for you – the blooms often exhibit a phenomenon called cauliflory and, no, that has nothing to do with a white-stalked, cruciferous vegetable. It means clusters of blooms may appear directly on the trunk, instead of just at the ends of branches. Cool!

Steve Bender

For those in quest of a small tree for the yard, Eastern redbud would appear an excellent choice. It grows quickly in any well-drained soil in USDA Zones 4 to 9. It isn’t fussy, takes heat and drought, and is indigenous from the East Coast out to Texas and Oklahoma. Some selections boast colorful leaves. Those of ‘Forest Pansy’ and ‘Merlot’ emerge purple in spring, while those of ‘The Rising Sun’ emerge orange to apricot before maturing to golden-yellow. ‘Alba’ and ‘Texas White’ boast white flowers.

So what’s not to like? The seeds, or more specifically, the seedlings. After the flowers drop, hundreds of bean-shaped seedpods take their place. Each pod contains about six seeds, all of which sprout if they fall to the soil. This isn’t a problem for trees planted in mowed lawns, but it is if they’re growing in mulched or natural areas or near flower beds.

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I noticed redbud’s startling fecundity this week. Many years ago, I planted a redbud at the end of our driveway. This year, Grumpy and his Missus started developing a shady garden in a wooded patch behind our house. Hundreds of bright green seedlings popped up from amid the fallen leaves. Redbud seedlings. If I leave them, they’ll crowd out the dogwoods, maples, grancy graybeard, mayhaw, buckeyes, Alabama crotons, serviceberry, fothergilla, pawpaws, beautyberry, and other native plants that adhere to the discipline of planned parenthood.

They shall be culled.

Let this be a lesson to those who believe that only foreign plants can be weedy. My weediest plants – redbud, Virginia creeper, dooryard violet, catbrier, wild grape, rattan vine, black cherry, river oats – are natives.

I hope this fair and balanced piece about Eastern redbud satisfies Ms. Putin-Allanson. She says it does.  OK, bye.