Fabaceae (pea family) Cercis

Cercis canadensis eastern redbud

Eastern United States
eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis lines Capistrano Way. View from Rogers House towards Bechtel International Center. Sairus Patel, 19 Mar 2017

More often planted than our native California western redbud and more showy. It volunteers freely on campus, for example on Stanford Avenue. The seed pods are narrower than those of California redbud and fall off earlier. The heart-shaped 5-inch leaf blade is broader than it is long, darker green above than below, and has a sharp tip. Western redbud has a similar leaf but rounded at the tip or slightly notched. Strikingly, flowers are produced along the branches and trunk before leaves appear. The related C. siliquastrum is called the Judas tree since Judas Iscariot reportedly hanged himself from one (see Name derivation below).

eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis leaves and seed pods. John Rawlings, 2005

See eastern redbuds on Santa Teresa Street at the New Guinea Garden, and between the McCullough and Gordon and Betty Moore buildings with western redbud. The two species are paired in the roundabout on Escondido Road and Campus Drive as well: three single-trunked westerns with one multitrunk eastern. In Palo Alto, a specimen at 1031 Hamilton Avenue is actually around the corner on Chaucer Street.

Cultivar ‘Forest Pansy’ has distinctive reddish purple leaves, but puts on more of a muted show when in flower. Several are in the Knight Management Center (which opened spring 2011), in the walkway between the MBA Class of 1998 building and the Patterson building. They were part of the original landscaping of the Serra Street Complex at that location.

Almost three dozen white-flowered C. canadensis var. texensis ‘Texas White’ are scattered along the east side of Roth Way Garage and the north face of Anderson Collection.

Name derivation: Cercis – Greek name kerkis, probably for a poplar, but also applied to C. siliquastrum, which through confusion between Judas and Judaea, is now traditionally the tree on which Judas hanged himself; canadensis – of Canada. – William T. Stearn, Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners, Portland, OR.: Timber Press, 1996.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. Note on Forest Pansy added by John Rawlings. Additional locations, minor edits (Mar 2017, SP). ‘Texas White’ locations added (Apr 2020, SP). Name derivation of genus from Stearn corrected (Mar 2023, SP).