Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont

Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White

Cercis canadensis L. Redbud, eastern redbud, Judas tree. Family Fabaceae. ITIS Taxonomic Serial Number 25782. USDA PLANTS Symbol CECA4. TROPICOS # 13028557.

Images • Branchlet with leaves. • Individual leaf 1. • Individual leaf 2. • Close-up of pulvinus. • Close-up of buds. • Flowers. • Branchlet wth fruits. • Close-up of fruits. • Herbarium sheet 1. • Herbarium sheet 2. • Herbarium sheet 3. • Herbarium sheet 4.

Brief Description: A small deciduous tree, usually ranging from 5–10 m (16–33 ft.) tall when mature. Bark of older trunks is gray-brown, and shallowly furrowed and ridged, sometimes flaky. Leaves are alternate, 5–12.5 cm long, and about as wide or wider. Leaves are typically heart-shaped, without teeth or lobes along the margin. Leaves bear 5 (sometimes 7) prominent veins that branch from the base of the leaf blade. Flowers are small, but showy, pinkish or purplish (occasionally white), and shaped like garden pea flowers. They appear in clusters on older branches or the trunk, usually before the leaves emerge. Fruits are flat pods (legumes), 4–10 cm long, turning from green to brown or black when mature. Redbud, a common forest tree throughout much of the eastern United States, is one of the first trees to flower in spring.

Detailed Description:

Plant habit and life style. Plants Angiosperms, synoecious, shrub or tree, (2–)5–10(–15) m tall.

Stems. Pith continuous. Young twigs (1-year-old or less) black or brown or reddish-brown, glabrous. Twigs (2–4 years old) glabrous. Leaf scars triangular, bundle scars 2–3 per leaf scar, stipule scars absent. Bark of mature trunks flaky or furrowed or ridged.

Buds. Buds axillary or superposed, black or purple or reddish-brown, 2–3 mm long, blunt, glabrous or pubescent, bud scales imbricate or valvate.

Leaves. Leaves deciduous, simple, petiolate, alternate, 5–12.5 cm long, 6–15 cm wide, cordate or orbiculate or ovate or reniform, leaf margins entire, leaf apices acuminate or acute or obtuse, leaf bases cordate or truncate. Leaf upper surface blue-green or green, glabrous or glabrate. Leaf lower surface green, glabrous or glabrate or pubescent. Leaf venation palmate. Petioles 4–13 cm long. Stipules present, caducous.

Flowers. Flowering February or March or April or May. Inflorescences axillary, fascicles or simple umbels, flowers stalked. Flowers bisexual. Perianth. Calyx bilaterally symmetric, synsepalous. Sepals 5 per flower, calyx tubes 2–3 mm long, ascending or appressed, purple or red or rose, persistent. Corolla bilaterally symmetric, apopetalous. Petals 5 per flower, 5–10 mm long, spreading or ascending, pink or purple or rose or white, keeled or oblong or ovate, petal apices rounded. Androecium. Stamens 10 per flower, separate. Gynoecium. Ovaries superior, pistils 1 per flower. Gynoecium monocarpous, 1 carpels per flower, styles 1 per pistil, placentation marginal. Other floral features. Hypanthia present.

Fruits. Fruits legumes, 4–10 cm long, black or brown, fruit maturation 1 years.

Habitat. Habitat bottomland forests or dry-mesic upland forests or mesic upland forests or mixed forest edges or suburban plantings.

Special Diagnostic Characters. Leaves appear to be simple but are technically unifoliolate, apparently resulting from the reduction of a compound leaf to a single leaflet, as is evident by a small angled extension (pulvinus) at the end of the leaf stalk; flowers emerge in clusters on older branches or the trunk.

Cite this publication as: ‘Stephen M. Seiberling, Alan S. Weakley, and Peter S. White (2005 onwards). Common Trees of the North Carolina Piedmont: Identification, Descriptions, Illustrations, and Glossary. Version: March 7, 2006. <>’.

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