Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Cercis canadensis. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ .
C. reniformis Engl. 
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for eastern redbud is Cercis
canadensis L. (Fabaceae) . Texas redbud (C. c. var. texensis [Wats]
Hopkins) is recognized by some authorities . Others include Mexican
redbud (C. c. var. mexicana [Rose] Hopkins) . Clark and Bachtell
 report, however, that a common opinion among nursery workers is
that the two varieties represent environmentally induced morphologies
(i.e. more leathery leaves in more xeric conditions) and that C. c. var.
texensis and C. c. var. mexicana are all C. c. var. canadensis.
Information is reported by variety in this write-up.
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
The range of eastern redbud extends from New Jersey and Pennsylvania
west to southern Michigan and southeastern Nebraska; south to eastern
Texas; and east to central Florida . Its natural range appears to
exclude the Gulf and Atlantic Coastal Plains . It is extinct from
one locality in extreme southern Ontario .
Texas redbud occurs from southern Oklahoma south to eastern, southern,
and Trans-Pecos Texas; extreme southeastern New Mexico; and northern
Mexico. In Mexico, its range extends from eastern Chihuahua and Coahila
east to Tamps and south to San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo .
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
FRES19 Aspen - birch
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES38 Plains grasslands
AL AR DE FL GA IL IN KS KY LA
MI MS MO NE NC NJ OH OK PA SC
TN TX VA WV MEXICO
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K084 Cross Timbers
K089 Black Belt
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
44 Chestnut oak
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
87 Sweetgum - yellow-poplar
89 Live oak
110 Black oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Eastern redbud occurs in the open or as an understory tree common along
the edge of woods in a variety of habitats [11,53]. In Kentucky, it
occurs on exposed limestone cliffs in eastern redcedar (Juniperus
virginiana) communities .
It very commonly occurs with flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) .
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
The wood of eastern redbud is heavy, hard, and close-grained [11,16],
but weak . It is of no commercial value since the trees are rarely
large enough to provide merchantable timber .
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Eastern redbud seeds or pods are eaten by quail, pheasants , other
birds including goldfinch , and deer . Birds will open pods on
the tree to get at the seeds . Deer and cattle browse young trees .
Eastern redbud occurs in Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) habitat which is
critical to endangered golden-cheeked warblers. The relationship of
eastern redbud to golden-cheeked warblers was not reported (the warblers
are primarily insectivorous) .
Armstrong  lists redbud as moderately preferred browse for
white-tailed deer on the Edwards Plateau, Texas.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Crude protein, digestibility, and water content were reported for
eastern redbud on untreated plots and plots treated with herbicide and
fire over the course of a growing season .
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Eastern redbud was planted on surface mined sites in Indiana between
1928 and 1975 . It is apparently no longer used much for this
Eastern redbud was present as a volunteer at a density of 40 stems per
acre on a 30-year-old plantation on a surface mined site in Missouri .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Eastern redbud is a popular ornamental . It is listed among trees
useful for xeriscaping (landscaping for minimal water use) . It is
sometimes a valuable source of nectar for honey production . The
flowers may be pickled for use in salads or fried (a common practice in
Mexico). An astringent fluid extract from redbud bark has been used in
treating dysentery .
Eastern redbud is the state tree of Oklahoma .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
On southern red oak (Quercus falcata) sites that were clearcut, eastern
redbud increased on plots where flowering dogwood, red maple (Acer
rubrum), and hickory (Carya spp.) were injected with herbicides. This
increase may be in part due to bird dispersed seed since bird activity
was high in this area .
The response of eastern redbud to tebuthiruon or triclopyr treatments
was reported by Stritzke and others . Neither of the herbicides
used resulted in more than 66 percent kill of eastern redbud, and by 2
years after the treatment, canopy cover of all species had increased to
94 percent (plots with no herbicides averaged 175% canopy cover) .
Picloram has been reported as effectively suppressing sprouting in
Eastern redbud is relatively free of serious insect pests and diseases
. It is fed upon by gypsy moth larvae (later stages) only when
preferred species are not available .
Eastern redbud is rated as moderately sensitive to ozone damage .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Eastern redbud is a native, deciduous, small tree or shrub. Mature
height ranges from 25 to 50 feet (7.6-15.2 m); the smaller figure is
probably closer to average [15,16]. The crown is flat to rounded .
The trunk us usually straight, branching about 5 to 9 feet (1.5-2 m)
above the ground . The 0.5-inch- (1.2-cm) thick bark becomes scaly
on older stems [11,16]. The root system of eastern redbud is long and
coarse with a relatively small number of fine feeder roots near the
surface . The fruit is a flat, thin-walled legume (pod) 1.5 to 3.9
inches (4-10 cm) long and 0.32 to 0.72 inches (8-18 mm) broad, with
several hard, shiny seeds .
The national champion (1976) eastern redbud from Springfield, Missouri,
measured 47 feet tall (14.3 m), 8.17 inches (20.75 cm) in circumference,
and had a crown spread 36 feet (10.9 m) in diameter .
Unlike most other members of the Fabaceae, eastern redbud does not form
root nodules and does not appear to fix nitrogen .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Eastern redbud reproduces by bird dispersed seeds . On average,
first reproduction occurs when an individual is about 15 feet tall (4.5
m), although sometimes blooming begins when trees are 5 to 7 feet
(1.5-2.1 m) in height . Pods may be borne by 5-year-old eastern
redbud, with a maximum reproductive age of 75 years. Good seed crops
usually occur in alternate years . The seeds exhibit combined
dormancy: internal dormancy plus a hard, impermeable seedcoat . In
nursery practice, both scarification and cold, moist stratification are
required for germination .
Eastern redbud sprouts from the roots or root crown following topkill .
Eastern redbud can be propagated by softwood cuttings .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Eastern redbud grows on almost any site that is not excessively wet,
excessively dry, or strongly acidic [11,14,18]. Within its natural
range, eastern redbud exhibits a strong preference for, and can be used
as an indicator of, alkaline soils. Eastern redbud occurs in eastern
redcedar communities on calcareous soils . In Virginia, eastern
redbud tends to occur on alkaline soils high in calcium and magnesium
. Collier and Longenecker  recommend a soil pH range of 6.0 to
8.0. Best growth of eastern redbud occurs on rich, moist soils, usually
in partial shade . It is usually not considered drought tolerant
; however, its ability to tolerate dry conditions is decreased in
full full sun . Probst  reported that eastern redbud is less
common in oak forests on poor sites than in oak forests on good sites
(defined by oak site indices). The upper elevational limit of eastern
redbud is about 2,200 feet (670 m) in the southeastern portion of its
range . In Trans-Pecos Texas, eastern redbud ranges from 2,300 to
5,000 feet (701-1524 m) in elevation .
In Trans-Pecos Texas, Mexican redbud occurs in brushy arroyos, canyons,
and limestone hillsides . In the Konza Prairie of Kansas, eastern
redbud occurs on rocky breaks in the grassland .
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Eastern redbud is moderately tolerant of shade and grows well in full
sun. Flower and fruit production is best in full sun, but eastern
redbud's tolerance of full sunlight decreases in hot and dry areas
[50,54]. It has been hypothesized that eastern redbud and similar
midstory trees such as flowering dogwood attain a midstory canopy height
that maximizes interception of sunflecks (transitory periods of full sun
created by gaps in the canopy and the angle of the sun). If this is the
case, eastern redbud requires at least short periods of sunlight for
Eastern redbud apparently establishes in middle seres, forming a
midstory layer, often with flowering dogwood. In North Carolina,
eastern redbud and flowering dogwood developed as a distinct midstory
under an oldfield shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) canopy as the stand
approached middle age (85 years) . In western Tennessee, eastern
redbud was recorded on 28-year-old abandoned agricultural fields, but
not recorded on 3- and 12-year-old sites . In Texas, primary
succession in gravel pit excavations did not include eastern redbud even
on the 47-year-old site, although eastern redbud was present in adjacent
undisturbed forest . Eastern redbud is a characteristic midstory
species in mesic southern mixed hardwood forests which succeed
pine-hardwood mixtures, and could therefore be classed as a
late-successional species . It occurs, for example, in an
old-growth oak forest in northwestern Ohio  and it is present as
seedlings, saplings and mature trees in southern mixed hardwood forest
in north-central Florida . It may not, however, be stable in some
climax communities: eastern redbud was reported as decreasing in
importance and relative dominance in an oldgrowth oak (Quercus
spp.)-hickory (Carya spp.) forest in Illinois .
Although eastern redbud is not usually described as a pioneer species it
often increases in dominance on sites experiencing disturbance. It is
common on cutover or windthrown areas on calcareous soils . In
Indiana, a tornado caused severe windthrow in a sugar maple (Acer
saccharum)-Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) stand. Prior to the tornado,
eastern redbud was a minor component in the stand. The most severely
damaged portion of the forest was still mostly open 7 years after the
disturbance and was dominated by sugar maple, elms (Ulmus spp.), Ohio
buckeye, and eastern redbud. Eastern redbud, which increased
dramatically in the first years after the tornado, will probably decline
in importance as taller species begin to close the canopy .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Eastern redbud flowers appear before the leaves from as early as
February in the southeastern United States to May [11,16,56]. In the
southern part of its range, eastern redbud pods are fully grown by the
end of May and ripen by September or October [16,56]. The pods split
open in late autumn to winter, sometimes persisting on the tree through
the winter [18,56].
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Eastern redbud is rated as fire tolerant due to its habit of sprouting
vigorously after top-kill by fire . However, it is not reported as a
postfire colonizer, and it is not a member of communities which
experience frequent fire.
At the prairie-forest ecotone, prairie fires limit the spread of woody
vegetation. The lack of fire, perhaps coupled with climatic factors,
has led to the encroachment of woodlands (in which eastern redbud
occurs) onto former prairies [1,9]. In eastern Kansas, eastern redbud
occurs in bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)-chinkapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii)
stands which have established on former tallgrass prairie
(Andropogon-Panicum-Sorghastrum). These forests are normally confined
to galleries along rivers. Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) and eastern
redbud establish about 10 to 30 years after the cessation of fire (and
following oak establishment) in this area. Long fire-free periods allow
succession to proceed from shade intolerant oaks to more shade tolerant
hickories and eastern redbud. Eastern redbud may replace chinkapin oak
on steep, dry sites. Hackberry is more likely to become dominant on
moist sites . In southern Illinois, a prairie barren was treated
with four prescribed fires between 1969 and 1973 and subsequently
experienced no fires. Eastern redbud seedlings and saplings were first
recorded on the plots in 1983, 10 years after the last fire .
In central Oklahoma, eastern redbud occurred in post oak (Quercus
stellata)-blackjack oak (Q. marilandica) forest which had not
experienced recent fire, and was not reported for post oak-blackjack oak
savanna which is maintained by fire and edaphic conditions .
FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Eastern redbud is easily top-killed by fire but regenerates after fire
by sprouting. Eastern redbud developed clusters of root sprouts after
being top-killed by a prescribed spring fire to discourage the
encroachment of woody species onto a south-central Ohio prairie .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
In North Carolina, a 1931 wildfire burned with varying intensity in a
35-year-old oldfield loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) stand. Flowering
dogwood and estern redbud were the most abundant woody species in the
understory and in the shrub/seedling strata of the unburned area 9 years
after the fire. Eastern redbud was recorded for the area that
experienced crown fires but was present at a lower density and frequency
than in the unburned stand. No eastern redbud was recorded for the area
that had experienced surface fire. No specific data on composition of
the plots prior to the fire was reported .
In Alabama, the relative dominance of eastern redbud decreased on plots
that were burned in spring and in fall, as measured from 1 to 3 years
after clearcutting and prescribed fire. By 3 years after a
low-intensity spotty spring fire, however, average height of eastern
redbud was 17 feet (5 m) (as compared to 21 feet (6) on unburned plots).
On plots that had experienced a more uniform, intense fire, average
height of eastern redbud was 8 feet (2.4 m) only 1 year after the fire [28,36].
Germinable eastern redbud seeds were present in the seedbank but not
represented in the vegetation of a tallgrass prairie site that was
prescribed burned annually between 1978 and 1984. The seeds were not
reported from unburned sites or from sites that experienced fire at
4-year intervals .
Average crude protein for eastern redbud was slightly higher on plots
that had been treated with herbicide and fire than on untreated plots .
The Research Paper by Bowles and others 2007 provides information on
postfire responses of several plant species, including eastern redbud,
that was not available when this species review was written.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
In Texas, chaining and burning live oak (Quercus virginiana), white oak
(Q. alba), Texas oak (Q. texana), and Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei)
resulted in an increase in fire climax species, including Texas redbud.
Fires maintain root sprouters like Texas redbud in a low growing
condition. Prescribed fire is recommended for these areas to cover
approximately 10 to 15 percent of the total area each year (resulting in
a 5- to 10-year rotation) .
SPECIES: Cercis canadensis
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