Redbud Tree — Cercis canadensis
The small, deep pink and magenta flowers seen among the branches of leafless trees in a wood are some of the very first signs that spring is coming. These blooms are provided by the redbud tree, a small tree that never fails to delight, whether it grows wild in the forest or is part of a well-designed and well-tended landscape.
The redbud tree grows to 20 to 30 feet tall and has a 25 to 35 foot spread. It grows 13 to 24 inches a year and has a vase-shaped habit. The redbud is not only colorful, but hardy. Like the willow tree, it prefers to grow near a body of water, but is not too particular about its soil. If a person looks, they’ll see that the vividly colored flowers grow in beautiful masses right on the branch. In older trees, they even grow on the trunk. These small flowers might remind the onlooker of pea flowers. That’s because the redbud is indeed a type of legume. After the flowers go, it produces 4 inch long seed pods that start out as bright green then deepen to brown or black. They persist on the tree throughout the winter.
The leaves of the redbud tree are kidney or heart-shaped, thin and about 2 to 6 inches long. They are bright green when young and turn blue green as the season goes on. In the fall, they turn bright yellow. The bark is deep brown on young trees and develops interesting furrows as the tree ages. Another attractive thing about the redbud is that it starts to blossom when it's young, often when it’s only about four years old. It does best in full sun, but it can tolerate shade.
The early flowers attract early season butterflies and other pollinators, and the seeds are eaten by songbirds. The Eastern Redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma.