Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

Thank you to SandyS of southwestern Pennsylvania for contributing today’s photograph (submitted via the BPotD Submission Forum on the UBC BG discussion forums in this thread. Much appreciated, Sandy!

One of the few “photographic regrets” I had from my recent trip to California was not stopping to photograph the flowering Cercis occidentalis in Shasta-Trinity National Forest of northern California. I was too intent on my destination, so instead I’ve added it to the ever-increasing list of places to revisit. Sandy’s photograph brings back some pleasant memories, so I appreciate that. I also have to add that one of my favourite Eliot Porter photographs is Redbud Trees in Bottomland, Near Red River Gorge, Kentucky, a puny version of which can be seen via the Metropolitan Museum of Art (far better to see this as a print or reproduction in a book, though).

As alluded to above, Cercis canadensis is commonly called redbud, or a bit more specifically, eastern redbud. The cultivar ‘Forest Pansy’ is a popular choice among many gardeners, partly due to its purple foliage (along with many other fine qualities; see the Plant of Merit designation of Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening).

You have perhaps noted that the flowers of eastern redbud emerge directly from the branches and stems, a phenomenon called cauliflory (as opposed to emerging from buds on new growth or young stems). Wayne Armstrong has an extensive article on cauliflory, along with an explanation of its adaptive advantages. It is worth noting, as Mabberley does in The Plant-Book, that cauliflory is a trait almost exclusively found in tropical trees, with Cercis being one of the few exceptions. This property, combined with the disjunct distribution of Cercis in western North America, eastern North America, Mediterranean Europe and eastern Asia, suggests that Cercis was once more widespread during the periods when present-day northern temperate areas had tropical and subtropical climates.

Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

12 responses to “Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’”

  1. bev

    Very interesting discussion of cauliflory. I had always wondered why redbuds did that; thanks!

  2. J

    Stunning photos of an excellent tree! The Redbuds are also in full glory here in southeast Pennsylvania. I’m taking the opportunity to incorporate Redbuds into as many landscape designs possible, where conditions permit, of course.

  3. Souren

    A happy plant, though the association with Judas’ blood is perhaps unfortunate. But very evocative and memorable.

  4. Ruth

    Makes me homesick for Oklahoma in spring. The pink clouds of redbud there are beautiful. The only place, to my knowledge, that Eastern and Western Redbud are native.

  5. Sue Gray

    Ah, the redbud. The official state tree of Oklahoma. It’s incredible and it’s edible….the flower buds are edible, that is. Try them in salads…they add color and a bit of flavor.

  6. phillip lacock

    red bud…?…they look more like elves’ little slippers…

  7. elizabeth a airhart

    lovely just lovely
    rosey pink clouds to walk under and
    miles and miles to fly over
    the little folk get just a tad drunk
    this time of the year hang thier
    shoes on any thing handy best look
    under the bushes thank you

  8. Beverley

    Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ – Z4 – RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
    Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ – Z5-9 – A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk
    Cercis ker-kis From kerkis Gk. a weaver’s shuttle, descriptive of the woody fruits. canadensis kan-a-den-sis. Of Canada or NE North America. Dictionary of Plant Names, Coombes

  9. karla

    The reason this tree received the common name ‘redbud’ is because the words ‘pink’ or ‘magenta’ were not in use in the common language of the day!

  10. Elizabeth McLean

    I have 3 of these beautiful trees planted in my garden in Victoria, Australia. It is only their second year and they are doing really well. They are truly a joy to watch throughout the year. The trees are an interesting shape with zig-zaggy beanches and the leaves are heart shaped. I have planted some NZ Rock Lilies (Arthropodium Cirrhatum)in front of one – what a lovely contrast!

  11. mary Izzo

    I bought 5acres in Lower INman Valley on the Fleurieu Penninsula. I have planted many trees but the most intrigueing one is the Eastern Redbud. It is now nearly 4 years old but has not flowered as yet. I was working in a library in Yankalilla and picked the seeds off a tree that had similar leaves to the Redbud but was not flowereing the way the redbud does. However the leaves are a heart shape so much like the Redbud. Any ideas as to what this tree would be called. I have been successful in growing trees from the seeds
    Love to talk to anyone about unusual trees as I now have planted a Dogwood and hope it grows
    Cheers Mary Izzo

  12. Lynne Australia

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments, about the Cercis canadensis. I have just purchased one of these small trees/bush.
    I saw my 1st Red Bud when touring an Open Garden just outside of Toowoomba Qld Australia. and I was so pleased to know that I am living in a climate that can grow these trees.
    I note that some folks are still waiting for flowers after 4 yrs and that is in an area very much colder than here.Is this a typical time to have to wait, is there anything that I can do to hurry up this time.
    I love all the Autum trees, and have also bought an American Dogwood but it is just a small plant about 1 mtr high. looking forward to seeing it grow.
    Toowoomba is in the Highlands it is 750mtrs above sea level, we get very big fogs here- I live just 12 klms out of Toowoomba at Highfields . Toowoomba is in a region also known as the Darling Downs and is one of the best food bowls in Australia.

Leave a Reply