Cercis siliquastrum (Redbud)
Arabic name: سرسس
There are about seven species of Cercis, but of these only the Cercis siliquastrum is a native of the Eastern Mediterranean Region. This species is native to the forests of Irbid and Ajlun in Jordan, where the populations are unfortunately very low. This beautiful deciduous tree can grow to a height of 6m, with a spread of 5m, and has moderate growth of about 25cm per year.
Cercis siliquastrum is commonly known as Redbud because in early spring (March – April), before the leaves come out, its branches are covered with an abundance of pink flowers. A Redbud begins bearing flowers at four or five years of age. It also is known as Judas Tree, as it is said that this was the tree from which Judas Iscariot hung himself, but the name may be derived from the fact that it grows in the hills of Judea.
Redbuds grow in full sun or partial shade, and are drought-tolerant. They require moist, well-drained sandy loam that is deep enough to accommodate the tree’s long roots. It is best grown in moderately nutrient-rich soil, although Redbuds also can grow in nutritionally poor soil.
Redbuds require no watering once established. Generally, trees need supplemental irrigation to get established, especially if planted after the rainy season. During the first year, irrigate in the amount of 20 – 25 liters of water twice a week. During its second year, a tree needs to be irrigated in the amount of 40 liters once a week. Beginning with the third year, trees usually get established, and some, like the Redbud, do not require any supplemental irrigation.
The Redbud grows into middle-sized trees, with a single or few stems, and is very showy. Its leaves are rounded, 10 cm long and 12 cm across, deep heart-shaped at the base, smooth, un-toothed, bronze when young, becoming blue-green when mature. They turn into a golden color in autumn. Spectacular pink flowers flood the branches in spring, growing directly from the trunk and branches, before the leaves come out. The flowers are pea-like, 2cm long, and grow in clusters along old shoots. The flowers are replaced by equally attractive reddish flattened pods. Pods are 5 – 10 cm long, slightly curved, green turning to pink, and ripening into brown, often persisting after the leaves fall.
Notes on use:
A spectacular specimen tree; distinguished by its striking pink flowers; is suitable as a solitary tree or in groups.
Redbuds can be propagated by softwood cuttings.
Transplanting Redbuds requires care. Avoid planting bare-rooted plants. Make sure to shorten side branches, and stake well.
Pruning is rarely required.
Redbuds attract wildlife. Also, their flowers can be eaten raw. The tart flower buds are used to adorn salads, and are sometimes pickled and used as a condiment. The Redbud is widely cultivated for its hard, finely veined wood as well. It is beautifully grained, takes a very fine polish, and is used for veneers.
This article is part of a series of articles prepared by the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) on water conserving landscapes.
For additional information on water conserving gardens, visit the CSBE web site at www.csbe.org
Support for the CSBE project on water conserving landscapes is provided by WEPIA (Water Efficiency and Public Information for Action), a program being implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).