Tree Notes is about trees -- especially native trees, trees for wildlife, and trees in history.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Redbud pods maturing

How to collect the seeds of Cercis canadensis

As I waited in a parking lot to meet my daughter a few days ago, I noticed the redbud (Cercis canadensis) trees nearby. This didn't require extreme tree identification skills -- the redbud is easily identified in summer by its (generally) heart-shaped leaves. In the leaf, several major veins begin at the juncture of stem and leaf, spreading out like spokes from the hub of a bicycle wheel.

Here is a good image of a redbud leaf at Bioimages. Please don't look at the photo in this post for help in identifying a redbud leaf. My photo has some other leaves of shrubbery mixed in with the redbud leaves. Also, the redbud leaves were a bit bug-eaten, and possibly mildewed. (We've had an exceptionally wet summer in this part of Kentucky.)

Besides the leaves, I knew these trees were redbuds because of the clusters of seedpods. Some of the seedpods were nearly mature and some were still green, but they were hanging in clusters from the  branches.

Curiously enough, the redbud doesn't bloom at the tips of its branches as most trees do. Redbuds bloom  from nodes on the branches. After a tree has bloomed many years from the same node area, it develops swollen areas that look almost pregnant. (image at right.)

If you want to collect redbud seed, wait until the pods are brown and dry. Then open the pods and pop out the seeds. Discard any seeds that have insect holes or that are not uniform in shape, size, or color. Store the seeds in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. To sprout and grow, the seeds must be both scarified (seed covers scratched) and stratified (buried in cold wet sand for several months).

Nature doesn't seem to have much trouble with the
scarifying and stratifying. Owners of redbud trees can testify to the ability of redbuds to propagate themselves.

5 comments -- please add yours:

DRB said...

Hi, I've been catching up on your entries.

I'd never noticed that they don't bloom at the tip. The moth was interesting, too.

Genevieve said...

Hi, DRB. Here's another interesting bit of redbud trivia. The blossoms are edible and so are the pods. Supposedly, you can use them any way you would use snow peas, but the trick is to get them while they are young, green, and tender. The redbud does belong to the pea family.

Anonymous said...

I notice that some of my redbuds have pods while others do not. Is it possible that there are male and female trees?

Anonymous said...

I am also wondering if there is a female and a male. I have two growing in my yard, one has pods one does not.

Lois Amanda Webster said...

My question also! I have read that cultivated varieties ate sterile, but I grew up in the woods of Tennessee and don't remember seeing redbud pods but my tree here in Indiana does. Still sleuthing. ...

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Enrich your life with the study of trees.

"The power to recognize trees at a glance without examining their leaves or flowers or fruit as they are seen, for example, from the car-window during a railroad journey, can only be acquired by studying them as they grow under all possible conditions over wide areas of territory. Such an attainment may not have much practical value, but once acquired it gives to the possessor a good deal of pleasure which is denied to less fortunate travelers."

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Print references I frequently consult

Benvie, Sam. Encyclopedia of North American Trees. Buffalo, NY: Firefly, 2000.

Brockman, C. Frank. Trees of North America: A Guide to Field Identification. Ed. Herbert S. Zim. New York: Golden, 1986.

Cliburn, Jerry, and Ginny Clomps. A Key to Missouri Trees in Winter: An Identification Guide. Conservation Commission of the State of Missouri, 1980.

Collingwood, G. H., Warren David Brush, and Devereux Butcher. Knowing Your Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1978.

Dirr, Michael. Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: an Illustrated Encyclopedia. Portland, Or.: Timber, 1997.

Elias, Thomas S. The Complete Trees of North America; Field Guide and Natural History. New York: Book Division, Times Mirror Magazines, 1980.

Grimm, William Carey. The Book of Trees;. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole, 1962.

Hightshoe, Gary L. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines for Urban and Rural America: a Planting Design Manual for Environmental Designers. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1988.

Little, Elbert L. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees. New York: Chanticleer, 1996.

Martin, Alexander C., Herbert S. Zim, and Arnold L. Nelson. American Wildlife and Plants. New York: McGraw Hill, 1951.

Mitchell, Alan F., and David More. The Trees of North America. New York, NY: Facts On File Publications, 1987.

Randall, Charles E. Enjoying Our Trees. Washington: American Forestry Association, 1969.

Settergren, Carl D., and R. E. McDermott. Trees of Missouri. Columbia: University Extension, 1995.

Sternberg, Guy, and James W. Wilson. Native Trees for North American Landscapes: from the Atlantic to the Rockies. Portland: Timber, 2004.

Wharton, Mary E., and Roger W. Barbour. Trees and Shrubs of Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1973.

Wyman, Donald. Trees for American Gardens. New York: Macmillan, 1965.

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