Cercis occidentalis

I mentioned in a previous Cercis entry a couple years ago about regretting not photographing Cercis occidentalis while in northern California, so I made sure to do so on this past trip.

Western redbud is native to southwest USA, including California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. Like other Cercis species, it exhibits cauliflory, i.e., flowers emerge from the woody tissue of branches and stems (see previous entry for additional links on this phenomenon).

Despite there being two Cercis species in North America (the other being the eastern North American Cercis canadensis), these two taxa are not as closely related to each other as Cercis canadensis is to Cercis siliquastrum, a native of southern Europe and western Asia. An examination of the evolutionary relationships and biogeography within Cercis was done by Charles C. Davis et al. in 2002 (Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cercis (Fabaceae): Evidence from Nuclear Ribosomal ITS and Chloroplast ndhF Sequence Data in Systematic Botany 27(2):289-302). The precise reason for the close relationship between Cercis canadensis (a species of temperate climates) and Cercis siliquastrum (a species of dry Mediterranean climates) remains unknown, but most theories suggest a common arid-growing ancestor with later evolution in the Cercis canadensis lineage to become the temperate climate species observed today.

Cercis occidentalis
Cercis occidentalis
Cercis occidentalis

20 responses to “Cercis occidentalis”

  1. jackie

    My absolute favorite of the western indiginous plants…nothing like seeing a clump of budding redbud on the side of a hill in Feather River Canyon.

  2. Eric Simpson

    I’ve probably seen this same tree! Went on a class field-trip whose route included this stretch of 299. Even though the trip was for an ornithology class, the proffessor made a stop once just so we could admire the redbud in bloom, as it is not common on the coast proper (where the university is).

  3. Quin

    such beauty in sometimes such rugged conditions – uber mediterranean dry summers – gardeners some times complain about this wonderful specimen because it has the nerve to hold its seed pods throughout the winter – picky, picky…..

  4. Sunny Hill

    Yay! A species from my neck of the woods!I LOVE this tree.
    I’m a Canadian living in the Bay Area of California. I volunteer at the Tilden Regional Parks Botanic Garden and I so appreciate your photos and posts from my home country. The beauty of the photos, the scientific details, the generosity of sharing this over the web. Thank you!

  5. Michael F

    “Despite there being two Cercis species in North America (the other being the eastern North American Cercis canadensis), these two taxa are not as closely related to each other as Cercis canadensis is to Cercis siliquastrum, a native of southern Europe and western Asia”

    When apparently strange results like this crop up, my instinct is to ask, Has the origin and identity of the specimens analysed been verified? In too many studies, this doesn’t appear to have been done.

  6. Jan Phillips

    I love this shrub. It remains with me as an enduring memory of my trip to California in 2004 up in the Yosemite area. I made my host stop the car so I could take endless pictures.
    Since then, I tracked it down to buy some seeds but now realise that I am trying to grow the southern European species and not occidentalis. SO, back to the seedtray, must look for the right seeds now………….

  7. terri shane

    B*E*A*U*T*F*U*L !!!

  8. Sara

    If you like redbud, Y’all should make a trip to the midwest – my holler below the house is THICK with redbud this spring – – worth fighting ticks to see. Makes me proud of my stewardship of this parcel – had to insist that the burning stop. Most of the neighbors think burning the woods is the right thing to do – but it destroys the redbud, the dogwood & the cedar & provides forage for the nasty long horned oak beetle.

  9. Susanne

    yes, here in Missouri lots of redbuds last week too. Interspersed with the cloudy white of the plums it was spectacular. Now they are already loosing flowers and leaves are expanding, so not quite so nice anymore.

  10. Tyler

    If I’m not mistaken, Cercis mexicana is also native to North America as well. This might be considered as one of the couple of canadensis cousins though, not sure.

  11. madeline Dowdell

    I live in the Hollywood hills an planted an Eastern Redbud in 1994. It is truly beautiful.

  12. Jane/MulchMaid

    I love and remember the eastern redbud. It’s a sweet memory of my youth in Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland, where its characteristic mauvey-pink spring blooms stood out in the woods and rural areas.

  13. elizabeth a airhart

    why are there trees i never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
    walt whitman american
    the above photo and comments answer his thought
    redbuds were part of my life in the notrth and
    happy to comment my florida life
    bonjour to everyone and thank you

  14. chico

    I live in Alabama and the Redbud is abundant here. It seems to grow wild along the highways and you will also find it in yards everywhere. Combined with the azaleas and dogwoods that are also blooming right now, it is a beautiful sight! We have quite a few in our yard and they are beautiful this year.

  15. Raymond Cranfill

    Having grown up in Kentucky, and having lived almost my entire adult life in San Francisco, Cercis has always been a special plant signifying spring. it is remarkable how similar these species look to one another, and to the southwestern species (C. mexicana, C. texensis, and C. reniformis).
    Although the eastern Redbud can often be found growing in mesic to dry woodlands, its preferred habitat is along limestone cliffs, the edges of cedar glades, and other calcareous, rocky outcrops. Thus, I don’t find it too surprising to learn that it is closely related to Cercis siliquastrum, which occurs in much the same habitat in southern Europe and Asia Monor. It also bears mentioning that Cercis is one of the classic Arcto-Tertiary relict genera, and that in addition to North America and Europe, another 6 to 10 species occur in southern China (C. chinensis, C. glabra, C. gigantea) and Japan (C. japonica). All species of Cercis are extremely easy to cultivate, have very few pests, and grow compactly enough to make fine specimen trees in suburban gardens where space is often at a premium. In addition to pink flowers, there are cultivars that have blood red and white flowers, and some that are more or less winter-green in southern areas of the United States where winters are mild.

  16. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    These photos are really gorgeous, as is the tree itself.

  17. beth

    I sent the info on a plant several entries back to my Palestinian cousin and she sent this replay. Saleh knew this plant, Beth; why don’t you send this information to the web site or post it if you can…we don’t want folks thinking we stuff sage leaves!!! though if your fingers were small enough…. love, sally
    — On Thu, 4/15/10, Saleh Srouji wrote:
    This plant is from the Sage family; the Lebanese name is Shafia which means the healing plant, the leaves are boiled in water and people drink the “tea” to heal stomach pains; do not confuse with Anis. Mother used to call it Maramieh. And no you cannot stuff the leaves.
    Saleh Srouji
    US- Herndon.

  18. Ray Gilley

    Red bud is a true harbinger of warm weather. I love it especially following a wet winter when the bloom is much fuller.

  19. Ron

    You should also be aware of Cercis reniformis or “Oklaholma Redbud”. There are three cercis species native to the U.S.

  20. Daniel Mosquin

    I tend to follow the taxonomic determinations of the GRIN (Germplasm Resource Information Network) taxonomists in the absence of a better resource, and they are only recognizing two species of Cercis: Cercis occidentalis (which USDA PLANTS database notes as Cercis orbiculata) and Cercis canadensis (along with two varieties: var. mexicana, var. texensis). Near as I can determine, Cercis reniformis is often synonymized with Cercis canadensis var. texensis on other web sites (yet strangely doesn’t appear on GRIN), so I’d be interested to learn if it is being considered a newly-recognized species.

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