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What is an Eastern Redbud?

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  • Written By: Henry Gaudet
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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An eastern redbud is a small ornamental tree native to North America. It is the state tree of Oklahoma, and it is notable for its spectacular spring blossoms, an array of dense clusters of pink flowers covering each branch. This floral display is responsible for the popularity of the eastern redbud as a landscaping feature.

Eastern redbud trees can be found along the eastern half of the United States, as far west as Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. They can be found as far north as New England but are more commonly found further south in more temperate regions. The southern limit of the tree’s range reaches into Mexico.

It is a relatively short tree, considered a shrub by some, with mature trees reaching heights of 20–30 feet (6–9 m), but it grows quickly. Growth of 1–2 feet (30–60 cm) annually is typical for a young eastern redbud. Its thin branches splay out from one or more short trunks, and a 25– to 35-foot (8– to 10-m) spread is typical. Frequently, this haphazard growth requires pruning. As the tree grows, thin branches are likely to sag under the weight of leaves, and pruning might be required to prevent it from blocking nearby paths and walkways.

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Well-drained, slightly acidic soil is ideal for the eastern redbud. They thrive in full sunlight, but unlike many other flowering trees, they are able to cope with shade as well, often growing under larger trees. The eastern redbud requires regular, consistent moisture as well, and depending on the climate, watering might be required from time to time.

The eastern redbud will flower in the spring. Each flower is about half an inch (1.5 cm) in size, and they grow in clusters from short stems along the branches and trunk. These flowers appear on otherwise bare branches, before the leaves have grown. Landscapers often plant evergreens behind eastern redbuds for visual contrast in order to make the flowers stand out.

Dark green leaves appear shortly after the flowers have fallen. These broad, heart-shaped leaves usually are 3-5 inches (7-12 cm) long, with tiny hairs growing on the underside. In the autumn, they turn golden yellow for a second showy display of brilliant color.

Disease and insects are rarely a problem for the eastern redbud. When present, they are most often a nuisance and usually do not pose a serious problem. It is, however, a short-lived tree, rarely living for more than 30 years.

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