By Joseph Mooney
Each week we showcase a plant that’s native to the continental United States. This week’s plant is eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).
It doesn’t get much better than eastern redbud. Even if you don’t have or plant one in your garden spaces, on an early-spring walk you’re sure to see one, two—no, many—redbud trees lighting up the landscape in a fairy forest you probably overlooked the rest of the year when every leaf was merely green.
Those clouds of pink bloom inspire many of us to plant either our native species, C. canadensis, or one of the cultivars available that offer red, purple, or gold leaves or weeping forms.
Eastern redbud’s main habitat is an understory tree in rich forests or along rivers or streams, although it will grow in a fairly wide range of soils as long as they are well-drained. C. canadensis reaches its northernmost range in the southern counties of Michigan. If you do plant eastern redbud, choose specimens if possible that come from local sources to ensure cold hardiness in southeast Michigan. Once you plant a redbud it’s best to leave it where it is as the tree quickly develops a deep taproot. If a neighbor has a redbud you’ll likely find several seedlings every year in your garden beds and these can be dug up easily and planted if you’re okay with some delayed gratification.
These two seed pods look a lot alike. The pod on top is Cercis canadensis; the bottom is an edible snow pea.