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18 Different Types of Redbud Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Pics)

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Written By Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

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Home » Tree Types » 18 Different Types of Redbud Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Pics)

The first time I saw a redbud tree in bloom in early spring, I was instantly smitten by their radiant, bright pink blossoms that emerge before their leaves and almost everything else in the temperate northern latitudes.

Redbuds are all part of the Cercis genus of the Fabaceae or legume family of flowering dicots.

There are eight currently accepted different species of redbuds found worldwide. They are mostly native to Asia, with one species native to North America and one native to the Mediterranean.

Some sources list up to four additional species in North America, but these are all botanical variants of the most well-known redbud of all, the Eastern Redbud or Cercis canadensis.

The genus name Cercis comes from the Greek word kerkis, meaning weaver’s shuttle. This is because the seed pods resemble a weaver’s shuttle used to move the thread back and forth on a loom.

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Redbud Tree Identification (With Photos)

Redbuds are most easily identified by their early spring, usually pink, pea-like flowers that are followed by their usually heart-shaped (cordate) leaves.

Within the genus, however, there is some variation in their general traits which you can use to help identify the different types of redbud trees. I will teach you some of those basic variations now, and below we will learn to identify some species and cultivars.

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Leaf Shapes

All redbud trees have alternate, simple leaves.

Simple leaves are single leaves that are not part of a compound leaf.

Alternate leaves are arranged one per node on alternating sides of the branch, as opposed to leaves that are arranged in opposite pairs or whorls of three or more per node.

Leaf Arrange - 3 Square - Alt Opp Whorl
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Most redbud trees tend to have cordate (heart-shaped) leaves.

Sometimes can have reniform (kidney-shaped) or ovate (egg-shaped, widest at the base) leaves.

Other times they are almost round (also called suborbicular) or somewhat rhombic (diamond-shaped) or deltoid (triangular).

Often leaves have a blend of any of the shapes listed, being somewhere between the two. For example, deltoid-rhombic would be neither deltoid nor quite rhombic but in between the two.

Leaf Shape - 6 Square - cordate reniform ovate round deltoid rhombic
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Leaf Tips (Apex)

Redbud trees can also be identified by their leaf tips and by how the two sides of the leaves come together.

They are often acute (the two sides come together at a pointed angle of less than 90°), acuminate (the sides taper to a fine point), or obtuse (angled at greater than 90°).

Sometimes they are rounded (having no edges), emarginate (having a notch or indent at the tip), or mucronate (having a very short, small but sharp point).

Leaf Apex - 6 Square - acute acuminate obtuse round emarginate mucronate
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Leaf Base

The bases of redbud trees are less variable and tend to be mostly cordate, which is heart-shaped with an indent where the petiole sits, creating a small to large lobe on either side.

Sometimes bases can be truncate, which appears as though the base was cut off abruptly or truncated. Rarely, bases may also be obtuse (angled at greater than 90°).

Leaf Bases - 3 Square - cordate truncate obtuse
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Leaf Margins

Redbud tree leaf margins are always entire. They are never lobed (excluding the cordate base) or toothed in any way.

Some trees with similar leaves have crenate (rounded-toothed) margins, while others may have serrated (saw-toothed) margins. Cercis only has entire margins, which can help identify and differentiate the genus from other genera.

Rarely the entire margins of the redbud can be undulate or wavy-edged where the edge goes up and down like a wave, undulating. This can be very useful in differentiating the Mexican Redbud from the Oklahoma or Eastern Redbuds.

Leaf Margins - 4 Square - entire crenate serrate undulate
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Hairs and Other Surface Features

Redbud trees tend to be mostly hairless. However, some species or varieties may have puberulent surfaces (short and soft hairy, downy) or pubescent (like puberulent but slightly longer). The presence of hairs is a good way to help identify certain species or varieties.

Some leaf surfaces are dull, while others are leathery and shiny. This can also be used to help identify different types of redbuds.

Sometimes leaves or legumes are glaucous, having an epicuticular waxy coating that gives them a frosted blue-gray look that can be rubbed off.

Surfaces - 6 Square - glabrous pubescent puberulent dull shiny glaucous
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Palmate Venation

Redbud tree leaves all have palmate venation, which can be used to help identify the genus since the veins are frequently very pronounced.

Palmate venation is where several main veins radiate from the same point at the base of the leaf. As opposed to pinnate venation, which has numerous secondary veins, all running from a single main vein toward the margins.

Since they all have the same venation, it can’t be used to identify the different types of redbuds, but it can be used to help identify a redbud in general.

Venation - 2 Square - palmate pinnate
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Flowers

Redbud trees are of the Fabaceae or legume family, and like most members of that family, they have bisexual flowers. These flowers have both functional male and female reproductive organs in the same flower.

Redbud flowers have ten free unjoined stamens and a single threadlike style located above the ovary. The flower’s keel (see below) hides them until they are ready to reproduce, so they are not always visible. We generally do not use the reproductive parts to help identify redbud trees in the field.

Redbud trees have campanulate calyxes, the outer floral whorl also known as the sepals. In redbuds, the sepals are partial to completely joined into a bell-shaped tube that may or may not be shallowly lobed. The height and width of the calyx can be useful in identifying the different types of redbud trees.

And like many members of the family, they have the typical zygomorphic pea-like or papilionaceous flowers seen in many common legumes.

Zygomorphic flowers have only one plane of symmetry, also called bilateral, where they can only be split once into equal parts. Actinomorphic flowers have radial symmetry (like a sunflower) and can be split multiple ways into equal parts.

Pea-like or papilionaceous flowers have their own unique morphology, I will teach you the basics here because sometimes it can help identify certain species.

Pea-like flowers have a banner or standard petal, which is often the largest petal that typically develops outside the other petals. However, in Cercis, the banner is actually the smallest and located inside the other petals, between the keel and the wings.

Papilionaceous flowers typically have two wing petals, one on the left and one on the right. Just like wings.

Finally, they have a keel petal. It is called a keel because it’s shaped like the keel of a boat. The keel comprises two fused petals that wrap around the flower’s reproductive parts from below. The keel often obscures the reproductive organs completely until they finally open from the top to reveal them.

Redbud Pea-like Flower Morphology - 2 Square
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Inflorescences

All redbud trees produce their flowers in inflorescences. An inflorescence is an arrangement of flowers on a stalk or system of stalks instead of flowers that grow singly and not in a group.

Redbud trees tend to have flowers in clusters known as fascicles, which are groups of flowers on pedicels all arising from the same node.

Fascicles may be located on spurs on older branches (Asian species sometimes have this), or they may be cauliflorous, which are borne directly on the branches or sometimes the trunk (Cercis canadensis). This can be useful in identifying the different types of redbud trees.

Some Asian redbud trees have their flowers in racemes. Racemes are unbranched inflorescences of flowers on pedicels all about the same length so that the flowers sit at different heights along the raceme’s rachis (central stalk).

Inflorescences - 4 Square - fascicle raceme cauliflorous spurs
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Fruits

Redbud trees, being from the Fabaceae or legume family, all produce legumes for their fruit.

Most legumes are dehiscent fruits that release their seeds by splitting open along two valves. Some legumes split on only one valve, and rarely are they indehiscent.

All redbuds produce legumes that slowly dehisce by two valves to release their seeds.

Often the legumes are narrowly winged along their ventral suture or lower valve.

Most valves are hairless, but sometimes they can be puberulent to pubescent.

Most have a stylar tip – the remnants of the persistent style found at the tip of the legume.

The length, width, and color of the legume, and the presence of wings and hairs, can all be used to help identify the different types of redbud trees.

Cercis canadensis Legume Morphology - 1 Landscape
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Identifying Redbud Trees by Their Fruits

Redbud trees all have bark that starts out smooth when young and may remain smooth when mature or sometimes develops irregularly, slightly exfoliating plates or shallow grooves.

The bark may be various shades of gray, reddish, or brown, and often the young bark contains small lenticels. Lenticels are pores that allow for gas exchange with the atmosphere.

The bark is less variable than other features and is only sometimes useful in helping to identify the different types of redbud trees, but it will help to identify the genus.

Bark - 4 Square - smooth lenticels plates grooves
Image by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

18 Different Types of Redbud Trees & Their Identifying Features (With Photos)

1. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

 Eastern Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images by Lyrae Willis, Own Work – for Tree Vitalize

Eastern Redbuds are probably the most well-known redbuds, and rightly so.

They bloom in very early spring with masses of small rose-pink pea-like flowers covering their branches before their pretty heart-shaped leaves appear.

It is an easy-to-grow tree that can be grown in full sun or partial shade in any soil type providing it is well-drained.

They require watering during the dry season but will not tolerate wet soils.

Most of our cultivars come from this tree. Check out the cultivars section below, and be sure to read further for more detail on some of the more popular or unique ones.

Numerous native butterflies and moths use this tree as a host plant for their larval stage.

Interestingly, though its species epithet is ‘canadensis’, it was once native only to the southernmost part of Ontario, Canada, where it has been classified as extirpated or locally extinct.

Identifying Features of the Eastern Redbud

Eastern Redbud is a widely spreading, single, or multi-trunked shrub or small tree.

Leaves are broadly cordate or sometimes somewhat ovate, rounded, or reniform, 2 – 4 ¾” long, usually wider than long, with acute or shortly acuminate tips that are obtuse or rounded in variants, and mostly cordate bases that are sometimes truncated. They are on long petioles with swellings at the leaf base. Lower surfaces are hairless to puberulent.

Flowers are magenta-pink, in cauliflorous fascicles on pedicels up to 0.4” long.

Flowers are 0.35 – 0.5” wide, with an asymmetric calyx tube 1 – 1.4” long and wider than it is long. Corolla is magenta pink to lilac or rarely white, and keel petals are 0.15 – 0.2” wide.

Fruit is a flat oblong legume 2.35 – 4” long, about 0.5” wide, pointed at both ends, often glaucous, with a stylar tip.

Often Confused With: Eastern Redbud is mostly confused with the Judas Tree, which often has more rounded or reniform leaves that are wider and always hairless, flowers with a shorter calyx, and shorter but wider legumes. It is also often confused with the Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), but that one has inconspicuous dioecious flowers, leaves in opposite pairs on long shoots and singly on short shoots, the leaves have a crenate margin, and the fruit is a follicle rather than a legume.

Other Common Names: American Redbud, Redbud

Native Area: Eastern North America from southern Michigan south to central Mexico, east to New Mexico (excluding botanical variants listed separately below).

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 ft tall, 15 – 35 ft spread

Some Cultivars Available (left to right):

Some of the more popular cultivars will be discussed below in their own section, but here is a list of some additional, delightful cultivars:

Eastern Redbud Cultivars ruby pink white sparkling - Grid 4 Square Landscape
Trees are in order of below descriptions – Images Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize
  1. Ruby Falls Weeping Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’ is a large weeping shrub up to 8 ft tall with bright rose pink flowers followed by leaves that emerge deep purple and age to dark green. – Image via Nature Hills
  2. Pink Heartbreaker Redbud Tree Cercis canadensis ‘Pink Heartbreaker’ PP23043 is a small weeping tree with an elegant yet wild branching pattern that, along with its bright green summer leaves, provides year-round interest long after the small pink-lavender flowers are done blooming. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees
  3. Whitewater Redbud Tree Cercis canadensis ‘Whitewater’ is a graceful large shrub up to 8 ft tall with a strongly weeping habit and unique green and white variegated foliage providing summer color long after its vibrant deep purple and rose blooms have faded. It is also urban tolerant. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees
  4. Sparkling Wine™ Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘JN21’ is an upright compact tree to 15 ft tall and wide dark rose-pink flowers that emerge in early spring, followed by leaves that emerge dark purple and mature to glossy green. – Image via Nature Hills
Eastern Redbud Cultivars rise black golden cascading - Grid 4 Square Landscape
Trees are in order of below descriptions – Images Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize
  1. Rise & Shine Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘JN15’ is a small to medium-sized tree to 25 ft tall with the usual profuse pink spring blossoms, but the leaves emerge a golden yellow in spring and turn bright green by summer before changing to brilliant gold again in the fall. – Image via Nature Hills
  2. Black Pearl™ Redbud Tree Cercis canadensis ‘JN16’ PPAF is a new cultivar with dense leaves that are such a deep glossy purple that they almost appear black. Spring brings profuse lavender-pink blossoms, and its irregular habit provides winter interest. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees
  3. Golden Falls® Redbud Tree Cercis canadensis NC2015-12 is a compact tree, only 10 ft tall but with an unusually narrowly columnar yet weeping form and leaves that emerge tinged with orange and change to golden yellow and lime green, plus the same great lavender-pink spring blossoms as the type species. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees
  4. Cascading Hearts Weeping Redbud Cercis canadensis ‘Cascading Hearts’ is another weeping form in a compact size of 10 ft tall and 12 ft wide with leaves that emerge soft purple in spring and turn green in the summer before turning purple again in the fall. – Image via Nature Hills

2. Western Redbud (Cercis canadensis var orbiculata C. occidentalis)

Western Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Western Redbuds are small multi-trunked trees with showy pink flowers, magenta buds, and purplish seed pods that keep their color all summer.

It is a more drought-tolerant variety than many redbuds, being endemic to the American Southwest, mostly in the dry foothills of California.

Its small size makes it ideal as a border plant for small gardens.

It has one of the most confusing taxonomies of all the Cercis. It was formerly called Cercis occidentalis, but plant authorities say that name is a synonym of Cercis canadensis var texensis, which has a completely disjunct distribution.

It was also occasionally listed as Cercis orbiculata, which is another botanical variant, Cercis canadensis var orbiculata.

Despite the discrepancy, it seems most likely to be the orbiculata variant, but as of the writing of this article, that has not been clarified.

Identifying Features of the Western Redbud

Western Redbud is a multi-trunked shrub or small tree with smooth bark and thin shiny brown branches.

Leaves are rounded-cordate to almost reniform, thin to somewhat leathery, dull to slightly glossy green, 1 – 2 ¾” long, with a wide or narrow cordate base, and rounded to emarginate tips.

Flowers are pink to bright red-purple with a short calyx (0.12”) that is about ¼” wide at the tip, a corolla that is about 0.5” wide, and keel petals that are about ¼” wide.

Fruit is an oblong legume, slender-beaked, 1.6 – 4” long, 0.55 – 0.83” wide, with a narrow wing and hairless valves, usually purple-reddish when mature.

Often Confused With: Western Redbud is mostly confused with Eastern Redbud, which has more cordate leaves that are never leathery or glossy with tips that are usually acute to short-acuminate and are never emarginate, flowers with a much longer calyx and slightly wider keel, and fruits that are often a bit longer but narrower. It is also confused with the Judas Tree, which has often more rounded leaves that are wider and somewhat shorter legumes.

Other Common Names: California Redbud, Arizona Redbud, Intermountain Redbud, Judas Tree

Native Area: Endemic to southwest USA in California, Nevada, with scattered populations in Arizona, Utah

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 7 – 20 ft (to 29 ft) tall, 10 – 15 ft spread

Available at: Nature Hills

3. Oklahoma Redbud (Cercis canadensis var texensis)

Oklahoma Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees and Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Oklahoma Redbud is often listed as Cercis texensis, but plant authorities have determined that it is a botanical variant of Cercis canadensis. Sometimes it is also listed as Cercis reniformis, which is another synonym.

It is often called Oklahoma Redbud because it is the state tree of Oklahoma.

It is popular as a landscape specimen tree for its compact habit and bright pink-rose to wine-colored flowers that appear in early spring.

It thrives in full sun in well-drained fertile soils and is more drought-tolerant than most redbud trees.

It will not tolerate wet soils but will benefit from regular light watering.

Young trees have somewhat irregular crowns and would benefit from pruning and training if a particular shape is desired.

It does not transplant well and should be planted when young in a permanent location.

Identifying Features of the Oklahoma Redbud

Oklahoma Redbud is a large shrub or shrub-like small tree with spreading branches and an irregular to rounded crown.

Leaves are best described as reniform-cordate, having thicker, deeper lobes than cordate. They are 2 – 3” wide, thick and leathery, dull to glossy dark green, with an obtuse to rounded tip that is never acuminate.

Flowers are similar to the type species but are typically much darker pink-rose to wine-colored.

Fruits are about 4” long legumes that are purple when mature and remain on the tree during the winter.

Often Confused With: Oklahoma Redbud is often confused with Eastern Redbud, but the latter species is more tree-like and has more cordate leaves with acute to acuminate tips that are not at all leathery and are never shiny, and it has lighter pink flowers and is a more cold-hardy tree but with poorer drought tolerance. It is also often confused with Mexican Redbud, which overlaps in range in southern Texas, but that one is shorter and usually has slightly smaller and even more leathery leaves that have distinctive undulating margins.

Other Common Names: Texas Redbud

Native Area: Texas, eastern Oklahoma, USA, south into northern Mexico

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 ft tall, 10 – 15 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

4. Mexican Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. mexicana)

Mexican Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images by Monrovia – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Mexican Redbud is an uncommon but beautiful ornamental shrub or small tree up to 12 ft tall with clusters of bright wine-red to purple flowers and beautiful golden-yellow fall color that would be a perfect addition to a small garden.

It also is a great addition to a pollinator garden for its ability to attract bees, butterflies, and birds or for drought-tolerant gardens since it’s already adapted to the desert conditions of the North American southwest.

While many sources list this as Cercis mexicana, like most other ‘species’ in North America, it is a botanical variant of Cercis canadensis.

It is even more drought-tolerant than the Oklahoma Redbud, thrives in full sun, and can do very well with only a small amount of water. It can also tolerate partial shade.

It grows well in any soil, including shallow rocky soils, provided they have good drainage and are occasionally dry.

Identifying Features of the Mexican Redbud

Mexican Redbud is a large multi-stemmed shrub with a rounded crown.

Leaves are glossy green, leathery, cordate, 2 – 3” long, and as wide or wider than long, with distinctly undulate margins.

Flowers are wine-red to purple, appearing in cauliflorous fascicles.

Fruits are legumes up to 4” long with hairless or sometimes puberulent valves.

Often Confused With: Mexican Redbud is mostly confused with Oklahoma Redbud but can generally be differentiated by the latter having somewhat less leathery leaves that are typically a bit larger and are flat and not usually undulated. It can also be confused with Eastern Redbud, which has flat leaves that are never leathery or shiny and never have undulate margins.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: Southwest Texas to northeast Mexico

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 5 – 12 ft tall, 5 – 12 ft spread

5. Royal White Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Royal White’)

Royal White Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees and Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Royal White Redbud is a small ornamental tree or shrub with beautiful snow-white flowers instead of pink that are larger and bloom earlier than other white Redbuds, covering its bare branches with profuse blossoms.

It makes a lovely border or specimen tree for any landscape.

It can grow in full sun or partial shade, but it benefits from some afternoon shade in hotter climates.

It is highly adaptable to all soil types, provided they are well-drained.

The seeds inside their legumes will attract wildlife to your yard in the fall and winter.

It is one of the many cultivars derived from the North American Eastern Redbud species.

Identifying Features of the Royal White Redbud

Royal White Redbud is a small or medium-sized tree with cordate leaves that emerge bronze and later change to green before turning bright yellow in fall.

Flowers emerge in early spring, snow-white, larger than the type species, and cover the bare branches before the leaves appear.

Fruit is a 4” legume that persists all winter.

Often Confused With: The Royal White Redbuds’ relatively larger size combined with white instead of pink blossoms will make it hard to mistake for other cultivars. Most white cultivars of the Eastern Redbud are smaller trees than this one.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 4 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 ft tall, 15 – 25 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

6. Forest Pansy Redbud (Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)

Forest Pansy Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees and Nature Hills – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Forest Pansy Redbud is a popular medium-sized ornamental tree with abundant beautiful early spring red to violet flowers that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

The real beauty is in its heart-shaped leaves. They emerge red as the flowers fade and turn to purple by late spring, then turn greenish-purple by late summer, followed by vibrant golden yellow, orange, and red in the fall, for a three-season spectacular color display.

It is a relatively fast grower that is adaptable to any well-drained soil.

Plant it in full sun or partial shade with a minimum of four hours of direct sun daily.

Identifying Features of the Forest Pansy Redbud

Forest Pansy Redbud is a small to medium-sized tree with smooth gray ascending branches and reddish young twigs.

Leaves are cordate, emerge red in spring, turn purple, then greenish-purple, and yellow, orange, and red in the fall.

Flowers are red-pink to nearly violet, blooming before the leaves appear.

Fruits are reddish legumes 2.4 – 3.15” long that mature to brown.

Often Confused With: The Forest Pansy Redbud’s relatively large size combined with its purple leaves will make it hard to confuse with most purple-leaved cultivars that tend to be smaller.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 30 ft tall, 25 – 35 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

7. Flame Thrower® Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis ‘NC2016-2’ PPAF)

Flame Thrower Pansy Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Nature Hills and Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

The Flame Thrower Redbud is a new three-season colorful cultivar of the Eastern Redbud.

In early spring, its prolific reddish-purple flowers emerge.

Then its heart-shaped leaves start emerging a strong burgundy red that turns yellow, orange, lime green, then green as they mature. They continue to grow throughout the season, and as they do, you get a wonderful blend of all colors on every branch of the tree for an ongoing color show.

The long petioles let the colorful leaves dance in the wind.

Best planted in fertile soil or fertilized each spring to encourage new growth to keep the colorful leaf display going.

This compact tree is suitable as a shade tree for smaller landscapes.

It’s a moderately fast grower, drought tolerant, disease-resistant, and displays minimal leaf scorch.

Plant it in full sun or partial shade with at least four hours of direct sun per day.

Identifying Features of the Flame Thrower Redbud

The Flame Thrower Redbud is a small to medium-sized, compact tree with semi-pendulous branches.

Leaves are cordate and emerge on long petioles and are a dark burgundy and change to yellow, orange, lime-green, and green when mature so that all colors are seen at any given time.

Flowers are typical of the type species in reddish-purple and emerge before the leaves appear in early spring.

It is unclear if this cultivar produces fruits.

Often Confused With: The Flame Thrower Redbud’s unique mix of burgundy, yellow, orange, lime-green, and green leaves will make it hard to mistake it for any other cultivar.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 ft tall, 15 – 20 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

8. Vanilla Twist Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Vanilla Twist’ PP22744)

Vanilla Twist Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Nature Hills and Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Vanilla Twist Redbud is a large shrub or small tree with an elegantly weeping crown.

In early spring, it blooms profusely with pure white flowers on its weeping branches.

Following the flowers are light green heart-shaped leaves that turn slightly darker as the season progresses before they turn golden yellow in the fall.

Its graceful weeping crown adds winter interest to the landscape for a full four seasons of enjoyment.

It is easily adaptable to any soil type, provided it is well-drained.

Its compact size allows it to be kept in a pot for years and makes it suitable for a small garden.

It is best grown in full sun or partial shade.

Identifying Features of the Vanilla Twist Redbud

Vanilla Twist Redbud is a compact large shrub or small tree with a weeping crown made of pendulous thin charcoal-gray branches.

Leaves are cordate, similar in size and shape to the type species, and light to dark green before turning golden yellow in the fall.

Flowers are pure snow-white pea-flowers, similar to the type species but white instead of pink.

It is unclear if this cultivar produces fruits.

Often Confused With: Vanilla Twist’s weeping crown of pure snow-white flowers will make it hard to mistake it for other cultivars.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 10 – 12 ft tall, 7 – 8 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

9. The Rising Sun™ Eastern Redbud Tree (Cercis Canadensis ‘JN2’)

Rising Sun Redbud - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Rising Sun Redbud is another new, unique cultivar of the Eastern Redbud tree.

In spring, it produces beautiful profuse fuschia pea-like flowers.

What really sets it apart, however, is its leaves that emerge orange, turn peach, then yellow to vivid green-gold when mature. They are extremely vigorous and stacked on the branches for a dense, vibrant canopy that almost looks like the canopy itself is blooming.

The leaves turn a vibrant orange in the fall for a beautiful fall color display.

It is a large shrub or small tree with a compact, symmetrical crown, making it suitable for any landscape.

It is heat, drought, and cold-tolerant and adapts to any well-drained soil.

Best planted in full sun or partial shade.

Too much shade could reduce the vibrant color of the leaves.

Identifying Features of the Rising Sun Redbud

Rising Sun Redbud is a large shrub or small tree with a compact, symmetrical crown of sturdy spreading branches that may become slightly pendulous under the weight of all the leaves.

Leaves are cordate, densely stacked on the branches, emerging orange, peach, and yellow before turning green-gold when mature. In the fall, they turn orange.

Flowers are bright fuschia and emerge in early spring before the leaves.

Fruits are legumes that persist all winter.

Often Confused With: The Rising Sun Redbud’s densely packed orange, peach, and yellow leaves maturing to green-gold progressively up the branch from youngest to oldest will prevent mistaking this cultivar for any other.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 12 ft tall, 6 – 8 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

10. Lavender Twist® Weeping Redbud Tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’)

Lavender Twist - Grid 2 Square
Images via Nature Hills and Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud is a beautiful small cascading accent tree with unique zig-zagging stems and gorgeous early spring pink to lavender flowers loved by butterflies and hummingbirds.

Glossy green heart-shaped leaves are packed densely on the canopy, adding summer interest, and in the fall, they turn a brilliant yellow for a spectacular fall color display. The unique branches add winter interest to the landscape.

It is an easy-to-grow, low-maintenance tree that can adapt to any well-drained soil.

It can be grown in full sun or partial shade with a minimum of four hours of direct sun.

Identifying Features of the Lavender Twist Redbud

Lavender Twist Redbud is a small tree with an umbrella-like weeping crown with slightly contorted, twisted pendulous branches.

Leaves are large, cordate glossy green on the upper surface and are densely packed on the branches creating a very dense canopy. They turn bright yellow in the fall.

Flowers are typical of the type species, in a bright pink to lavender-pink color.

It produces 2 – 3” long legumes that are brown when mature.

Often Confused With: The contorted branches of the Lavender Twist and its glossy green, densely packed leaves will make it hard to confuse with other cultivars.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 5 – 10 ft tall, 5 – 10 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

11. Pink Pom Poms’ Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Pink Pom Poms’ PP27630)

Pink Pom Poms - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Pink Pom Poms Redbud is another unique cultivar with the deepest color and the largest blossoms of any Redbud with its double flowers that look like pom poms.

The huge double blossoms cover the bare branches in dense clusters in early spring.

Its large heart-shaped leaves are an extra glossy green that shimmers in the sunlight for summer interest. In the fall, they turn brilliant yellow, providing a nice color show.

It is a sterile cultivar that produces no seed pods to clean up.

Its small size makes it suitable for most gardens.

It is adaptable to any soil type, including poor soil, provided it is well-drained.

Identifying Features of the Pink Pom Pom Redbud

Pink Pom Pom Redbud is a compact small tree with ascending-spreading branches.

Leaves are large, cordate, glossy green, and turn yellow in the fall.

Flowers have as much as four times the petals of any other redbud tree and are larger, growing in dense clusters on the branches in early spring before the leaves appear.

This sterile cultivar produces no fruits.

Often Confused With: The huge blossoms of Pink Pom Poms Redbud combined with the usual cordate leaves in a glossy green will make it hard to misidentify this for any other cultivar as this one has the largest blossoms by far.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 5 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 ft tall, 20 – 25 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees

12. Carolina Sweetheart® Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘NCCC1’ PPAF)

Carolina Sweetheart - Grid 2 Square
Images via Nature Hills and Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize

Carolina Sweetheart Redbud is a unique tri-color redbud with leaves that emerge deep purple but transition to hot pink and shades of green with white around the margins to varying depths for an interesting variegated look.

In the spring, the profuse magenta-pink blooms are a welcome site, followed by the deep purple new leaves.

Its somewhat larger size (up to 30 ft) that remains compact and manageable makes it a great shade tree for smaller landscapes.

Best grown in full sun or partial shade with a minimum of four hours of direct sun per day.

It prefers rich, well-drained soil and is disease-resistant.

Identifying Features of the Carolina Sweetheart Redbud

Carolina Sweetheart Redbud is a small to medium-sized multi-stemmed tree with a compact spreading habit.

Leaves are cordate and tri-colored, emerging purple but turning hot pink or variegated white and green.

Flowers are typical of the type species in a magenta-pink color and emerge in early spring before the leaves.

Fruits are legumes but are uncommon and sparse when they are produced.

Often Confused With: The tri-color variegated leaves of Carolina Sweetheart, with their hot pink, white, and green, will make it hard to mistake this cultivar for any other.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: N/A

USDA Growing Zones: 6 (5 with protection) – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 30 ft tall, 20 – 30 ft spread

Available at: Fast-Growing-Trees & Nature Hills

13. Chinese Redbud (Cercis chinensis)

Chinese Redbud - Cercis Chinensis
Image by Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz, Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Chinese Redbud has relatively large flowers that grow in dense clusters producing masses of pink or white flowers when in bloom.

They are shrub-like small trees that can grow up to 50 ft tall in their native environment, but those available commercially typically remain as large shrubs.

Their leaves differ from the common redbud cultivars derived from Eastern Redbud, being more rounded than heart-shaped.

They are easy-to-grow trees that work well in borders, in small groups, as specimen trees, or in a woodland garden.

Best grown in full sun to partial shade in any well-drained soil with medium moisture.

Identifying Features of the Chinese Redbud

Chinese Redbuds are large shrubs or trees with grayish-white bark.

Leaves are somewhat rounded, deltoid-rounded, or ovate-cordate, 2 – 4” long and about as wide or slightly wider, thin and papery, with hairless surfaces or sometimes puberulent on veins on lower surfaces, and membraneous margins that are slightly transparent when new.

Leaf bases are shallow to deeply cordate, and tips are acute.

Flowers are purplish red, pink, or white, about ½” wide, with ¼” wide calyxes, in fascicles of 2 – 10 on older branches and trunks with short pedicels to about ⅓” long. The keel is tinged with deep purple stripes.

Fruit is a greenish legume that becomes straw-colored when mature, narrowly oblong, 1.6 – 3.2” long, less than ½” wide, with a narrow wing, long attenuate base, and an acute or short-acuminate tip and a slender and curved stylar tip.

Often Confused With: Chinese Redbud is often confused with the Katsura Tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) when not in bloom, but the latter has inconspicuous dioecious flowers, rounded leaves with a cordate base with crenate margins, and their fruit is a follicle rather than a legume.

Other Common Names: Zǐjīng (Chinese)

Native Area: Eastern Asia, throughout China

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 15 ft (to 50 ft) tall, 8 -15 ft spread

Some Cultivars Available:

Chinese Cultivars - Avondale Egolf - Grid 2 Square
Images via Fast-Growing-Trees – Combined by Lyrae Willis for Tree Vitalize
  1. Avondale Redbud Tree Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ is a compact semi-dwarf upright tree (up to 12 ft tall) with abundant magenta pink blossoms in early spring followed by glossy green heart-shaped leaves in summer that turns golden yellow in the fall. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees
  2. Don E Golf Redbud Tree Cercis chinensis ‘Don E Golf’ is popular for its vibrant, large pink blooms, great disease and pest resistance, compact size (to 10 ft tall), and it’s sterility, so it produces no messy seed pods. – Image via Fast-Growing-Trees

14. Ching’s Redbud (Cercis chingii)

Ching's Redbud Cercis chingii
Image by Stickpen, Own work, Public Domain

Ching’s Redbud is the earliest of all the redbuds to bloom in early spring.

It produces large, profuse, purplish-red blossoms that age to white in dense clusters.

It is best grown in full sun except in areas with hot summers where it will appreciate a little afternoon shade.

A winter chill is required for flowers to set properly, but they should be protected from too cold of temperatures by a thick layer of winter mulch.

It does not transplant well, so choose your location well.

In its native habitat, it grows in woodlands, thickets, and along slopes.

Identifying Features of the Ching’s Redbud

Ching’s Redbud is a medium to large-sized shrub with smooth light gray bark. When young, twigs are grayish-white and brownish-puberulent but become blackish with numerous small lenticels.

Leaves have petioles that are slightly thickened at both ends.

Leaf blades ovate-orbicular or reni­form, 2 – 4 ⅓” long, slightly wider than long, with a cordate or truncate base and acute tip that may be mucronate or rounded without a tip.

Leaves are somewhat leathery and shiny green, puberulent on the raised main veins and in axils at the base on the lower surface.

Flowers are borne in fascicles of light purplish red, becoming whitish, with an almost ¼” wide calyx and 0.4” petals.

Fruit is a legume, 2 ¾ – 3 ⅓” long, thickly leath­ery, with valves twisting during dehiscence, with no wing and a robust stylar tip.

Often Confused With: Ching’s Redbud is sometimes confused with Eastern Redbud, which has smaller flowers, leaves that are never glossy (except in some botanical variants), flowers that do not age to white, usually shorter legumes with a narrow wing, and it usually grows to a taller height.

Other Common Names: Chinese Redbud

Native Area: China

USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 8 – 15 ft tall, 6 – 8 ft spread

15. Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum)

Judas Tree Cercis_siliquastrum
Image by Robert Flogaus-Faust, Own work, CC BY 4.0

The Judas Tree is a small to medium-sized redbud tree native to the Mediterranean with showy purplish-rose flowers and purple legume pods to add color to your garden.

Its leaves emerge after the flowers a bronze color but turn dark green in summer and a gentle pale yellow in the fall.

It is easy to grow in any average well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. While it can adapt to most soil types, it will perform best in moderately fertile, well-drained soils with consistent moisture. It will do poorly in wet soils.

Like all members of its genus, it does not transplant well, so choose your spot carefully.

Identifying Features of the Judas Tree

The Judas tree is a small to medium-sized tree with a rounded crown.

Leaves are almost round, cordate, or reniform, 2.4 – 4” long and up to 5.1” wide. Young leaves sometimes have stipules, and both surfaces are hairless.

Flowers appear in leaf axils on old branches in fascicles or immature condensed racemes with short rachis. There are 3 – 6 flowers in each inflorescence, purplish-rose or sometimes white, about ½” long on short pedicels with a campanulate calyx about ¼” long and slightly more than that wide.

Fruits are oblong legumes, 3 – 3 ¾” long, about ⅔” wide, on a 0.2” stalk (stipe) protruding from the calyx, with a narrow wing, and often with a persistent stylar tip.

Often Confused With: The Judas Tree is often confused with the Eastern Redbud, which has more cordate leaves that are typically not as wide and sometimes have puberulent lower surfaces, flowers that are about the same diameter but have a longer calyx and are cauliflorous rather than in leaf axils, and legumes that are slightly longer, narrower, and are often glaucous.

Other Common Names: European Redbud, Mediterranean Redbud, Love Tree

Native Area: Mediterranean region

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 25 ft (to 45 ft) tall, 15 -25 ft spread

16. Chain Flowered Redbud (Cercis racemosa)

Chain Flowered Redbud is one of two redbuds that produce their flowers in pendulous inflorescences instead of clusters held closely to the branch.

They are small to medium-sized trees with open spreading crowns that make lovely shade trees for any garden.

It is easily grown in any rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.

Abundant flowers attract numerous pollinators to your yard, and birds love the seed pods.

Identifying Features of the Chain Flowered Redbud

Chain Flowered Redbuds are small to medium-sized trees with dark gray-brown bark with scattered lenticels and rusty pubescence on young twigs.

Leaves are broadly ovate-orbicular, 2.4 – 5” long, and almost as wide on a stout hairless to pubescent petiole. Leaf tips are acute, bases are truncate to shallowly cordate, and the lower surface is puberulent, at least on the main veins.

Inflorescences are pendulous 6 – 20-flowered short racemes with hairy rachis and peduncles (inflorescence stalks).

Flowers are 0.4 – 0.5” wide on slender pedicels with a 0.2” long calyx, rose-red petals, and a banner petal with deep reddish spots.

Fruit is a slightly curved oblong legume, 2.4 – 4” long, narrowly winged, with an acute tip with a prominent, persistent style.

Often Confused With: The relatively long racemes of Chain Flowered Redbud make it hard to mistake for any other redbud except for Cercis chuniana, which has much less pubescence on its surfaces and has unique glaucous rhombic-ovate leaves.

Other Common Names: Chain-flowered Redbud, Pendulous Redbud

Native Area: Endemic to central and southeastern China

USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 30 ft tall, 15 – 25 ft spread

17. Yunnan Redbud (Cercis glabra)

Yunnan Redbud Cercis_glabra
Image by Plant Image Library from Boston, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Yunnan Redbud is a small to medium-sized tree with an open, widely spreading crown and delightful short inflorescences of light purplish-red to pink flowers that appear in early spring before the leaves emerge.

In its native habitat, it thrives in dense forests, mountain slopes, and valleys, including rocky areas.

It is easy to grow in most soil types, provided they’re well-drained.

It will thrive in full sun to partial shade, probably tolerating a bit more shade than its close cousins since it grows naturally in dense forests.

It is often labeled as Cercis yunnanensis, but this has recently been determined to be a synonym of Cercis glabra.

In the USA, plants cultivated as Cercis yunnanensis appear to be morphologically distinct from Cercis glabra. So there is still some confusion about its name, not unusual for a member of the Cercis genus.

Identifying Features of the Yunnan Redbud

Yunnan Redbuds are small to medium-sized trees with grayish-black bark.

Leaves are cordate or deltoid-orbicular, 2 – 4 ¾” (to 7 ⅞”) long and almost as wide, often purplish-red when young but greenish when mature, thickly papery to almost leathery and shiny on the upper surface. They are on long petioles, with obtuse to acute tips and shallowly to deeply cordate or rarely truncate bases.

Flowers are in short 4 – 12-flowered racemes with rachis no more than 0.4” long. Flowers are light purplish-red or pink, 0.5 – 0.6” wide on slender pedicels.

Fruits are purplish-red, broadly linear legumes, 2.75 – 6” long and up to 0.2” wide, with narrow wings and unequal valves, rounded to acuminate bases and acuminate tips.

Often Confused With: Yunnan Redbud is sometimes confused with the Judas Tree, but that one has almost round, cordate, or reniform leaves, inflorescences in racemes so short they appear like fascicles and have only 2 – 6 flowers in each inflorescence. The uncertainty in the species descriptions for Cercis glabra, which is mostly hairless, and Cercis yunnanensis, which is densely pubescent on the leaf undersides, means that these could still be determined to be different botanical variants or unique species.

Other Common Names: Smooth Redbud

Native Area: Endemic to central and southeastern China

USDA Growing Zones: 6 – 9

Average Size at Maturity: 15 – 20 ft (to 30 ft) tall, 15 – 20 ft spread

18. 广西紫荆 Cercis chuniana

Cercis chuniana is so new outside of China that I could not even find a common name for it.

It was described as a species in 1940 but was not found in any collections outside of China until 2014.

It is now being developed for commercial production for its unique, somewhat diamond-shaped glaucous leaves and its beautiful pendulous racemes of pea-like flowers that emerge white and age to pink.

It is also unusual in its size, growing to taller heights than any of the other redbuds. Although it is likely, though too early to say for sure, that the cultivars will be much smaller than it grows in its native environment.

Identifying Features of Cercis chuniana

Cercis chuniana are small to large-sized trees with grayish bark that is brownish-red on young branches and covered with small lenticels.

Leaves are rhombic-ovate, 2 – 3.5” long, and a little more than half as wide on slender petioles. Surfaces are both usually glaucous, especially the upper surface, while the lower surface is sparsely puberulent in the axils of the veins near the base. Tips are long-acuminate, and bases are obtuse.

Inflorescences are 7 – 15-flowered racemes 1.2 – 2” long.

Flowers are about 0.4” wide with broadly campanulate calyxes less than ¼” long with five shallow teeth. Petals are rose-pink to whitish-pink.

Fruit is a narrowly oblong, purplish-red legume, 2.4 – 3.5” long, ½ – ⅔” wide, acute at both ends, with a very narrow wing and a small stylar tip.

Often Confused With: The racemes of Cercis chuniana, along with its glaucous leaves and its rarity, will make it hard to confuse it with any other Redbud. Chain Flowered Redbud is the only other species with comparable racemes, but its ovate-orbicular leaves are never glaucous.

Other Common Names: N/A

Native Area: Endemic to southeast China

USDA Growing Zones: 7 – 8

Average Size at Maturity: 20 – 88 ft tall, 15 – 50 ft (estimated) spread

Radiant Redbud Trees

Growing Redbud Trees in Your Garden

It is easy to grow redbud trees in your garden, and you will be rewarded for their radiant spring blossoms that brighten up an otherwise somewhat drab late winter or early spring landscape.

They make a great border or specimen tree, can be grown next to buildings, and the tree varieties make a lovely small shade tree.

As with any tree, doing a little research is important to ensure a successful establishment in your yard.

First, check your USDA Planting Zone to ensure you purchase a tree adapted to your climate.

Next, you must check and compare your chosen tree’s soil, light, and moisture requirements to your site.

Check out How to Pick A Tree For Your Yard for more information on choosing the right tree for the right spot.

All redbuds are adapted to cool to warm temperate climates from zones 4 – 9, with some variation within the species, so check your chosen species/cultivar. If you live in colder climates and want a deciduous tree, try aspen, they are lovely and will grow easily down to zone 2.

Redbuds will adapt to any soil type provided that it is well-drained, as none will tolerate wet soils.

Many do best with regular irrigation during the hottest parts of summer. The Oklahoma, Mexican, and Western Redbuds are more drought-tolerant than other species or varieties.

While they will grow in any soil type, most do best in soils of moderate fertility. This is one of the few leguminous species that do not fix nitrogen, so it will benefit from additional nutrients. When you plant it, add some compost or well-rotted manure, and then apply a top dressing of organic matter each spring.

They are best grown in full sun or partial shade with at least four hours of direct sunlight. If you live in an area with hot summers, plant it somewhere it will get some afternoon shade to prevent leaf scorch.

Redbuds all have long taproots, so they do not transplant well. It is best to plant them young and choose your spot carefully since you will likely not succeed in moving it again later. Be sure to water regularly until it is well established.

Whenever possible, it is important to choose a species that is native to your area as this will enhance biodiversity and wildlife values and removes the risk of introducing potentially invasive species into your area.

Fortunately, no Cercis species appear on any invasive species databases worldwide at this time.

They are relatively pest and disease-resistant trees. However, canker is the main occasional concern. Sometimes verticillium wilt, dieback, leaf spots, mildew, and blight may present a problem.

Interesting Facts

The flowers of redbud trees are edible and make a nice nutritious addition to any spring salad.

The young twigs of Eastern Redbud are sometimes used to flavor wild game.

Native Americans used both flowers and bark to treat dysentery, whooping cough, congestion, and nausea.

Redbuds are short-lived trees, and specimens older than 30 years old are unusual.

Human Uses

Redbuds are mostly used ornamentally.

The flowers can be eaten fresh or fried, the seed pods are eaten when green and immature, similar to a snow pea, and the twigs can be used as a seasoning.

Native people in California used to use the pliable twigs of the Western Redbud to weave baskets.

The trees do not develop to sizes large enough to use in the lumber industry, though sometimes the wood is dried and used for fuel.

Wildlife Values

Several native caterpillars consume the leaves of redbud trees, and numerous other insects rely on the trees for shelter and habitat.

Birds routinely feed on the seeds inside the legumes, particularly throughout the winter since they are slow to dehisce and often remain on the tree all winter, providing a critical winter food source.

The trees provide shelter for birds and arboreal mammals and are sometimes used as nesting sites.

Redbuds are such a beautiful treat in early spring. You now have the necessary skills to identify these lovely trees, so go out and enjoy the trees around you! And maybe choose one for your yard; it will greet you yearly to signal the coming spring and end of winter.

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Photo of author

Lyrae Willis

Environmental Scientist & Plant Ecologist

Lyrae grew up in the forests of BC, Canada, where she got a BSc. in Environmental Sciences. Her whole life, she has loved studying plants, from the tiniest flowers to the most massive trees. She is currently researching native plants of North America and spends her time traveling, hiking, documenting, and writing. When not researching, she is homeschooling her brilliant autistic son, who travels with her and benefits from a unique hands-on education about the environment around him.

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