The showy blossoms of spring-flowering ornamental trees delight us with a profusion of color, ranging from bright white to creamy vanilla, buttery yellow to yellow-gold, soft pink to dusky salmon to deep rose. With an incredibly diverse availability of flowering trees, some with a huge range of color within the same species, it can be challenging to figure out just what type of tree it is that suddenly grabs your attention with a stunningly intense display of flowers.
One little gem among ornamental trees that stands out in the crowd with its distinct purplish flowers is a native tree called Eastern Redbud (‘Cercis canadensis’). In spite of its name, redbud has purple-pink flowers that appear before the leaves, with flowers often sprouting directly out of branches or even the trunk itself. The purple color and unique appearance of flowers on woody stems and bark sets this tree apart.
Redbud will grow well in full sun under the right conditions but is perhaps one of the more successful native “understory” trees, tolerating growing below taller trees. Usually a multi-stemmed tree or branching low at the trunk, redbud is a fairly small tree growing to about 20 to 30 feet in height with a slightly larger spread. Leaves are heart-shaped, glossy green in summer, turning yellow in fall. Redbuds produce pods that look a lot like pea pods. In winter, bark is furrowed and dark, which can be quite handsome.
The redbud in the photo stands out along Freedom Way between the Andrews and McGlynn Schools. Keep an eye out for it and for other purple-pink flowering redbuds in gardens around Medford this week.