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Woody > Cercis > Cercis occidentalis > Cercis occidentalis

Cercis occidentalis

Western Redbud

Origin:  Native to North America from Utah, Arizona to California, introduced into cultivation in 1886. The word Cercis is a derivative of the Greek word, kerkis, a weaver's shuttle, which Theophrastus likened the tree's flattened woody fruits to.
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The Western Redbud is a beautiful deciduous tree that is native to North America and found in the Southern United States from Utah to California. Western Redbud provides a beautiful burst of pink to purple colour when it blooms in the spring and continues to offer lots of interest throughout the year through its leaf shape and form. It has simple leaves with prominent veins that are green in spring and summer changing to yellow or red in the autumn. It also has elongated, bean-like seed pods that turn reddish brown in the autumn and remain on the tree over the winter. Western Redbud produces a dense crown of fine branches when mature making it an eye catching tree when in bloom. The flowers attract bees and hummingbirds as they are nectar rich. It grows well in full sun to partial shade in a wide variety of soils and can reach a height of 4 - 6 metres. Once established Cercis occidentalis is drought tolerant and can withstand periodic flooding although it prefers well-drained soils. It is relatively tolerant to pests but weevils, caterpillars and whiteflies might occasionally be problematic as well as verticillium wilt. The Western Redbud may be found growing in a variety of locations and is a suitable choice for parking lot plantings, municipal strips next to sidewalks or home and cottage gardens where it will provide full season interest.

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


Tree (deciduous), Shrub (deciduous)
Cercis orbiculata
USDA Hardiness Zone
Canadian Hardiness Zone
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
- 18 (must be below -3C for flowering to be prolific)
Temperature (°F)
- 1
4- 6 m
4-6 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
C. occidentalis is a deciduous plant that provides a magnificent show in the spring when with its pinkish-purple flowers blooming before leaf emergence. The leaves are ovate at the base and orbicular at the apex and in the autumn the green blue foliage turns yellow to red. It grows to a height of 4-6 meters and has a broad-spreading crown that ascends close to the ground. It is tolerant of most soil types but flourishes in those that are well drained in partial to full sun. Of note is the need for a winter chill (not below 0� C) to set flowers properly. Once established the Western Redbud requires little water and is moderately drought tolerant.
Western Redbud can be used for mass planting or as a specimen tree. It is suitable for parking lot island plantings, medians, or beside sidewalks as a residential tree, in lawns, parks or home gardens.
Western Redbud prefers full to partial sun in clay, loam, sand, acidic or alkaline soils that are well-drained. Plants require minimal watering once established as it is moderately drought to tolerant: it grows well on slopes.
Vase shaped, often multi-stemmed.
ID Characteristic
C. occidentalis has beautiful pink to purple pea-shaped flowers that emerge in spring prior to leaf emergence. In the autumn the leaves turn yellow and red while the seed pods remain on tree during the winter creating year-round interest.
The long term health of the Western Redbud is not usually affected by pests but it may be subject to common pests such as weevils, caterpillars, whiteflies and scale insects. May be browsed by deer or farm animals. Known to be resistant to oakwood root fungus but is susceptible to verticillium wilt.
Canyons, woods and sunny slopes. Western Redbud prefers full to partial sun in clay, loam, sand, acidic or alkaline soils that are well-drained. Plants require minimal watering once established as it is moderately drought tolerant: it grows well on slopes.
Bark/Stem Description
Smooth, grey bark, thin and can be easily damaged by impact from any mechanical devices, may be mulitrunked with thorns.
Leaf Description
Blue-green colour in spring turning to yellow in autumn, 1- 2 cm blade length, leaf shape is cordate, ovate with alternate arrangement, slightly waxy on edges and glossy.
Flower Description
Showy flowers, small clusters along the branches, spring flowering, each flower has five petals that range in colour from magenta pink to purple with the entire plant being in bloom for about two weeks.
Fruit Description
Elongated, bean shaped, pointed at tip, dry, hard pod, each pod contains 6- 7 hard bean-like seeds, fruit attracts birds and does not present a significant litter problem. The seed pods are reddish purple when immature, turning grey brown towards maturity and persisting on the tree through the winter.
Colour Description
Flowers are pink turning a more intense colour as they mature.The leaves are light green progressing to a soft yellow in autumn while the bark is light grey.
Texture Description
Medium texture in growing and dormant seasons.
Notable Specimens
Indigenous plants may be seen in Sonoma County (wine country) in northern California, including Chapparral, Douglas Fir Forest, Joshua Tree Woodland, Yellow Pine Forest and Central Oak Woodland. Individual specimens can be seen at the University of California, Davis Campus Arboretum, San Francisco, California, United States of America.
Using ripe seed soak in boiling water and let sit for several days, to the point that the seed become quite plump and almost twice the size. Plant in flats or pots and provide a cold treatment (5°C) for three months at which point germination should occur.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
Young, pliable, purple stems have been used by North American natives in basket weaving prior to European settlement.Entire hills of the plants were burnt after leaf drop to encourage the production of new, young, straight stems.
Gilman, F. Edward, and Dennis Watson. Cercis occidentalis Western Redbud. ENH311. Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food anf Sciences, University of Florida, November 1993. Revised December 2006. Reviewed May 2001. Print. Calflora: Information on California plants for education, research and conservation. Berkley, California: The Calflora Database. Web. Nov. 17. 2012. �Western Redbud�. n.d. Web. Nov. 17. 2012.