Redbud – Cercis canadensis

Redbud flowers
Redbud flowers

I will go, I said, to the country
      When the red-bud blooms in the spring
And then, as of old, for sheer rapture
      My heart will sing…

by May Frink Converse


Another native tree of Eastern North America is often the symbol of spring in the South. This tree not only grows wild in the woodlands, it is planted along streets all over the South. When the tree is in bloom, showy magenta pink flowers cover the branches.

Because the inner bark is astringent, a tea made form it is used in the treatment of fevers, diarrhea and dysentery. It is also a folk remedy for leukemia. A cold decoction of the roots and inner bark has been used in the past to treat whooping cough, chest congestion, and other chest complaints.

Early settlers used the flower buds in salads. The taste has a refreshing acidic tang that seems to indicate the high Vitamin C content. In some parts of southern Appalachia, green twigs from the Eastern redbud are used as seasoning for wild game such as venison and opossum. The green, young seedpods are edible…just cook, butter and treat just like peas!

People have used the red roots of this tree to make a dye; while the inner bark of twigs gives a mustard-yellow dye. Boiled in water, redbud twigs produce a yellow dye. (Kershaw)

A Native American legend refers to a woman who gave Seets-a’ ma a beautiful bag. It was red as blood, for it was made of the flowers of the redbud tree. In this bag was the color and fragrance of the flowers, which grew on the Tree Of Light, which fell down from heaven into the Great water.


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