Redbud
The California or Western Redbuds (Cercis occidentalis) are just now starting to
bloom in the Tule River Canyon. They are small trees or large shrubs with a rounded
crown of many spreading branches. Around March and April they bloom with a showy
magenta pea-like flower. These harbingers of spring are so beautiful and dramatic
when mixed in with the various greens of the oaks and chaparral.

Cercis is from
kerkis, the ancient Greek name for the redbud. Occidentalis means of
the west and these trees indeed grow in the western United States in California,
Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. They are common in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and
in the Coast Range as well. They grow on dry slopes often near a small spring or creek.
Redbuds typically grow to about 16 feet high and have multiple trunks. These trees
are in the pea family (Fabaceae) and their fruit is indeed like a pea pod. Their leaves,
which emerge in the spring after the flowers do, are heart-shaped and are reddish
when they first bud then later turn blue green. In the fall the leaves turn a brilliant
yellow and later fall to the ground. In the winter they are still beautiful trees,
although stark without their leaves, and you can often you can see the brown seedpods
still dangling from the bare branches.
Redbuds typically grow to about 16 feet high and have multiple trunks. These trees
are in the pea family (Fabaceae) and their fruit is indeed like a pea pod. Their leaves,
which emerge in the spring after the flowers do, are heart-shaped and are reddish
when they first bud then later turn blue green. In the fall the leaves turn a brilliant
yellow and later fall to the ground. In the winter they are still beautiful trees,
although stark without their leaves, and you can often you can see the brown seedpods
still dangling from the bare branches.

Deer browse on redbud foliage and early settlers ate the blossoms in their salads.
The bark was sometimes used to treat common maladies and sometimes even
leukemia. And many Native Americans chose the wood of the redbud for their bows.
But perhaps the springtime beauty of this tree may be its greatest contribution to
the human spirit.
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