In 1781, Thomas Jefferson listed "redbud or Judas-tree" in his Notes on the State of Virginia as a native "Esculent" tree.1 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 1807.2 He likewise directed that redbuds be planted among clumps of native trees and shrubs at Poplar Forest in 1812.3 One of the earliest American references to this tree was made by John Custis in correspondence with Peter Collinson in 1735.4
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
1791 May 8. (Jefferson to Maria Jefferson Eppes). "May 4th the gelder-rose, dog-wood, redbud, azalea were in blossom."7
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"8
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."9
1817 January. (Summary of Jefferson's Meteorological Journal, 1810-1816). "The Red bud [comes into blossom], from April 2 to Apr. 19."10
1818 April 11. (Jefferson to Jacob Bigelow). "The red bud blooms Apr. 2-19."11
1.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.