Forest 70 - Eastern Red Bud

Cercis Canadensis 

Cercis canadensis flowers. Photo not from the Arboretum Cercis canadensis tree. Photo not from the Arboretum

Other common names

Forest pansy

Origin of the species name

Cercis from Greek, a weaver's shuttle or comb referring to the shape of the fruit; canadensis is the Latin form for referring to its  occurrence in Canada.



Date planted

August 2009


Trees of this species are considered short lived, living 25-40 years, and sometimes less.

General description

This is a small deciduous tree with a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches. The bark is initially smooth and brown but later becomes ridged, furrowed and dark grey. Leaves are dark green in summer and yellowish in autumn. It has a showy pea-like flower display, appearing in early spring before the leaves. Height 10m Spread 8m.

Natural distribution and habitat  

The species is native to the eastern and southern states of the USA as well as Canada and Mexico. It is a frequent understory component of many forest types throughout the eastern United States. It is found on a wide variety of sites in its range from southern Canada to Mexico.

Conservation status

Although it is not classified as a rare or threatened species it is thought the population that grew in Canada is now extinct.

Planting pattern

Planted in a regular diamond grid pattern with some variations due to steep terrain.


Its main use is in horticulture, where many cultivars have been developed, including dwarf, weeping, white-flowering, purple-leaved and variegated varieties. The wood is heavy, hard, and close-grained, but because of the small size and irregular shape of the tree it is of no commercial value as a source of timber. Native Americans ate the flowers boiled or raw and roasted the seeds. In some parts of southern Appalachia, the twigs are used for seasoning wild game. The bark has been used as an astringent in the treatment of dysentery. Flowers of the tree can be put into salads or fried and eaten.

Further reading

Palmer, C (2008) Trees and Forests of North America. Abrams