It’s early spring (April 2nd) and one of the beautiful flowering trees in the garden now is Cercis Occidentalis (aka: California redbud or Western redbud). This California native tree, and also a native to South Western states like Utah and Arizona makes life colorful!
What’s so striking about this tree is that it bears flowers and fruits on bare branches: (botanically speaking this is known as ramiflorous.) So, what happens is that gangbuster flower clusters in magenta do a solo act of showcasing! When the flowers fade in spring, apple green leaves emerge and darken to blue green and will hold court until they turn pale yellow to a brilliant scarlet in autumn.
About Cercis Occidentalis
This is a small deciduous tree, sometimes a multi-trunked tree, or a shrub. Its native habitats include dry slopes and foothills of canyons below 3600 feet. Of all the many species of redbud, occidentalis, is the most heat and drought tolerant.
Flowering: As you can see from the photos, Cercis occidentalis is covered in masses of sweet-pea flowers colored rose-purple/ magenta blossoms. This proceeds the leaves in early spring which makes the flower extra showy. Flowers bloom between March and April and persist for 2 to 3 weeks.
Leaves: The 2-3 inch leaves on Western redbud are round and color is bluish to deep green above. Fall color ranges from pale yellow to brilliant scarlet; though fall color isn’t reliable in San Francisco.
Fruits: Following flowering, Cercis occidentalis will bear 3-inch-long brown legume pods which are very thin and dry. Flowers and young pods are edible.
Bloom time: February – April.
Exposure: full to part sun.
Water: normal to low.
Growth Rate: moderate.
Soil: Tolerates clay and acid soil.
Disease: resistant to oak root fungus; however, more susceptible to canker disease than nearly other species in this genus.
USDA Zone: 8-11.
Size: 7-20′ tall x 10-15′ wide.
Flower color: rose-purple/magenta.
Lifespan: 50 to 75 years.
People aren’t the only ones who enjoy this tree, when in flower so do hummingbirds and bumblebees. It’s a great choice for native, wildlife and drought tolerant gardens. Though short lived, this is a wonderful tree or shrub to include in the small garden.
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