Cercis canadensis var. mexicana

Mexican redbud

Few plants brighten the spring like the redbuds or Cercis. The pink flower buds opening to display magenta to bubblegum pink pea flowers are a staple of not only our east coast woodlands, but also regions around the northern hemisphere. There are 10 or so species with the majority found in Asia, one in the Mediterranean region, and a couple in North America. The name Cercis derives from the Greek word for a weaver's shuttle, kerkis, and dates back to several hundred years BCE when named by Theophrastus.

Redbuds are interesting small trees in that they share a characteristic which is rarely seen outside of the tropics. They will often have flowers appearing not only on the previous year's shoots like typical spring flowering plants, but also in clusters along old stems and trunks. It is not uncommon to see a 6"–8" diameter trunk with patches of flowers in spring like some fuchsia lichens.

One of the most under-appreciated forms is the Mexican variety of our native species known as C. canadensis var. mexicana. This form makes a small, wide-spreading tree which is often as much as twice as wide as tall. It bears rounded, somewhat heart-shaped leaves which are usually quite small when compared to other redbuds. They have a glossy surface but what really makes them stand out is their distinctively rippled edge. In flower, they are similar to other redbuds but the pea-like fruit which follow are often plum to lavender colored before drying.

Grow Mexican redbud in full sun to part shade in average to well-drained soil. It will ultimately reach about 20' tall and can be maintained as a single trunk tree or allowed to branch low to the ground for a multi-stem effect. It looks excellent at the edge of a wooded area or as a small specimen.

A beautiful specimen is planted in the Mixed Border at the JC Raulston Arboretum.