Red bud 2009.jpg
Cercis siliquastrum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Tribe: Cercideae
Genus: Cercis

See text.

Cercis or Redbud, is a genus of about 6-10 species in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae of the pea family Fabaceae, native to warm-temperate regions. They are small deciduous trees or large shrubs, characterised by simple, rounded to heart-shaped leaves and pinkish-red flowers borne in the early spring on bare leafless shoots.

Cercis species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Mouse Moth (recorded on Eastern Redbud).

A full list of species in the genus is:

  • Old World:
    • Cercis chinensis - Chinese Redbud (eastern Asia)
    • Cercis chuniana - Chinese Species
    • Cercis chingii - Ching's Redbud (China)
    • Cercis funiushanensis - Minor variation from C. glabra and C. chinensis
    • Cercis gigantea - Giant Redbud (China)
    • Cercis glabra
    • Cercis griffithii - Afghan Redbud (southern central Asia)
    • Cercis japonica
    • Cercis pubescens - Minor variation from C. glabra and C. chinensis
    • Cercis racemosa - Chain-flowered Redbud (western China)
    • Cercis siliquastrum - Judas-tree or European Redbud (Mediterranean region)
    • Cercis yunnanensis - Yunnan Redbud (China)
  • New World:
    • Cercis canadensis - Eastern Redbud (eastern North America)
    • Cercis mexicana - Mexican Redbud (Mexico; often treated as a variety of C. canadensis)
    • Cercis occidentalis - California Redbud or Western Redbud (California)
    • Cercis reniformis - Oklahoma Redbud (Oklahoma; often treated as a variety of C. canadensis)
    • Cercis texensis - Texas Redbud (Texas; often treated as a variety of C. canadensis)

Judas-tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is a small tree to 10-15 m tall native to the south of Europe and southwest Asia, in Iberia, southern France, Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, which forms a handsome low tree with a flat spreading head. In early spring it is covered with a profusion of magenta pink flowers, which appear before the leaves. The flowers have an agreeably acidic bite, and are eaten in mixed salad or made into fritters. The tree was frequently figured in the 16th and 17th century herbals.

This small, sparsely branched tree is said to be the one from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Christ, but the name may derive from "Judea's tree", after the region encompassing Israel and Palestine where the tree is commonplace.

A smaller Eastern American woodland understory tree, Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, is common from southernmost Canada to piedmont Alabama and East Texas. It differs from C. siliquastrum in its pointed leaves and slightly smaller size (rarely over 12 m tall). The flowers are also used in salads and for making pickled relish, while the inner bark of twigs gives a mustard-yellow dye.

The related Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, ranges from California east to Utah primarily in foothill regions. Its leaves are more rounded at the tip than the relatively heart-shaped leaves of the Eastern redbud. The tree often forms multi-trunked colonies that are covered in bright pink flowers in early spring (February - March). White-flowered variants are in cultivation. It buds only once a year.

The Chain-flowered Redbud (Cercis racemosa) from western China is unusual in the genus in having its flowers in pendulous 10 cm racemes, as in a Laburnum, rather than short clusters.


The wood is medium weight, somewhat brittle, of light tan color with a noticeably large heartwood area of darker brown, tinged with red. The tree is too small and widely scattered for the wood to be of any commercial value.

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