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Cercis canadensis - Eastern Redbud

Eastern Redbud

Common Name: Eastern Redbud

Scientific Name: Cercis canadensis

In 1781, Thomas Jefferson listed "redbud or Judas-tree" in his Notes on the State of Virginia as a native "Esculent" tree.[fn]Notes ed. Peden, 40.  The redbud is often called "Judas-tree," which actually refers to a Mediterranean species, Cercis siliquastrum, a species Judas supposedly used to hang himself; see Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg, 1979), 48.[/fn] He intended it to be a part of his shrubbery scheme for the western slope of Monticello and in the clumps of trees planted in the angles of the house in 1807.[fn]Betts, Garden Book, 334.[/fn] He likewise directed that redbuds be planted among clumps of native trees and shrubs at Poplar Forest in 1812.[fn]Ibid., 494.[/fn] One of the earliest American references to this tree was made by John Custis in correspondence with Peter Collinson in 1735.[fn]Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 405.[/fn]

The Eastern Redbud is a hardy, deciduous, spring flowering tree with graceful heart-shaped leaves and purplish-pink, pea-like flowers.

- Text from Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet

Primary Source References

1771.  (Miscellaneous Memoranda).  "Trees.--Redbud."[fn]Betts, Garden Book, 27.[/fn]

1771 September 30. "Trees...Red-bud."[fn]Ibid., 23. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.[/fn]

1791 May 8. (Jefferson to Maria Jefferson Eppes). "May 4th the gelder-rose, dog-wood, redbud, azalea were in blossom."[fn]PTJ, 20:380.[/fn]

1807 April 16.  (Weather Memorandum Book). "planted as follows...1. Red bud (N. E. clump)...the above were from Maine except 5 horse chestnuts from nursery & the Redbud"[fn]Betts, Garden Book, 333-4.[/fn]

1812 Nov.  (Planting Memorandum for Poplar Forest).  "...clump of Athenian & Balsam poplars at each corner of house.  intermix locusts, common and Kentucky, redbuds, dogwoods, calycanthus, liriodendron."[fn]Ibid., 494.[/fn]

1817 January.  (Summary of Jefferson's Meteorological Journal, 1810-1816).  "The Red bud [comes into blossom], from April 2 to Apr. 19."[fn]Ibid., 627.[/fn]

1818 April 11. (Jefferson to Jacob Bigelow). "The red bud blooms Apr. 2-19."[fn]Ibid., 579, and L&B, 19:261Polygraph copy at the Library of Congress.[/fn]

Further Sources

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