Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) grows as a large deciduous shrub or small multi-trunked tree. It blooms early in the spring, typically before the copper, heart-shaped leaves appear. The beautiful magenta pea-like flowers are prominent in March. In fact, Cercis occidentalis is a member of the pea family, and the flowers are edible! These native California plants can reach a mature size of 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. They grow in the dry California foothills and valley floors. The western redbud is very drought-tolerant and prefers limited summer irrigation. The bright coppery spring foliage changes by summer to blue-green and clusters of flat red or brown seed pods appear amongst the leaves. Toward late fall the leaves gradually drop, exposing the remaining pods which often hang on until spring. Different parts of the tree were used by Native Americans stems for baskets, leaves for incense, and roasted seed pods for food. Both the flowers and young pods were eaten. Young fall redbud branches are highly valued by Native American basket weavers for their wine-red coloring, while the white inner sapwood of young spring branches is equally prized as weft wood. The UC Davis Arboretum features some particularly nice plantings.
For a listing of other plants growing around town, please visit our Town Flora page.