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Red bud 2009.jpg
C. siliquastrum (Judas tree)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Cercidoideae
Genus: Cercis
Type species
Cercis siliquastrum

10–24; see text

  • Siliquastrum Duhamel

Cercis /ˈsɜːrsɪs/[3] is a genus of about 10 species in the subfamily Cercidoideae of the pea family Fabaceae,[1] native to warm temperate regions. It contains small deciduous trees or large shrubs commonly known as redbuds.[4] They are characterised by simple, rounded to heart-shaped leaves and pinkish-red flowers borne in the early spring on bare leafless shoots, on both branches and trunk ("cauliflory"). Cercis is derived from the Greek word κερκις (kerkis) meaning "weaver's shuttle", which was applied by Theophrastus to C. siliquastrum.[5]

Cercis species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including mouse moth and Automeris io (both recorded on eastern redbud). The bark of C. chinensis has been used in Chinese medicine as an antiseptic.[6]

Cercis fossils have been found that date to the Eocene.[7][8]


Cercis comprises the following species:[1][4][9][10][11]

Flowers Leaves Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Redbud in Seven Springs.JPG Cercis canadensis BW-03080-81.jpg Cercis canadensis L. eastern redbud eastern North America
Cercis chinensis in Sochi.JPG Cercis chinensis's leaf.JPG Cercis chinensis Bunge Chinese redbud East Asia
Cercischingii.jpg Cercis chingii Chun Ching's redbud China
Cercis chuniana F.P.Metcalf China
Cercis chinensis 2zz.jpg Cercis chinensis 1zz.jpg Cercis glabra Pamp. Yunnan redbud China
Cercis griffithii.jpg
Cercis griffithii ÖBG 2012-05-28 086 IMGP1419.jpg Cercis griffithii Boiss. Afghan redbud southern central Asia
Cercis mexicana Rose Mexican redbud northeast Mexico and Texas; Trans-Pecos
Cercis occidentalis flowers 2004-03-10.jpg Cercis occidentalis, California.jpg Cercis occidentalis Torr. ex A. Gray western redbud Western United States
Cercis orbiculata Greene intermountain redbud Arizona and Utah
Cercis racemosa in Eastwoodhill Arboretum (3).jpg Cercis racemosa Oliv. chain-flowered redbud western China
2021-04-15 09 47 33 Oklahoma Redbud flowers along Lees Corner Road in the Franklin Farm section of Oak Hill, Fairfax County, Virginia.jpg Cercis reniformis Engl. Oklahoma redbud Oklahoma and Texas; East of the Pecos River
Cercis siliquastrum Judas tree flowering trunk at Myddelton House, Enfield, London 03 (cropped).jpg Cercis siliquastrum kz1.jpg Cercis siliquastrum L. Judas tree or European redbud Mediterranean region

The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) often bears flowers directly on its trunk.

The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is 10–15 m tall tree native to the south of Europe and southwest Asia. It is found in Iberia, southern France, Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, and Asia Minor, and forms a low tree with a flat spreading head. In early spring it is covered with a profusion of magenta flowers which appear before the leaves. The flowers are edible and are sometimes eaten in a mixed salad or made into fritters with a flavor described as an agreeably acidic bite. The tree was frequently figured in the 16th and 17th-century herbals. It is said to be the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Christ, but the name may also derive from "Judea's tree", after the region encompassing Israel and Palestine where the tree is commonplace.

A smaller Eastern American woodland understory tree, the 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. It is commonly grown as an ornamental.[12]

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.[citation needed]

The species of Cercis in North America form a clade. Hopkins (1942)[13] established a two-species system for North America which is still widely recognized. Alternatively, based on an exploratory morphometric analysis, Isely (1975)[14] inferred up to six separate entities (“phases”). Barneby (1989)[15] recognized only one continental species and treated all of western North American Cercis as C. canadensis var. orbiculata, but the justification was cursory and not definitive. Morphometric studies of North American Cercis [16][11] indicate that, although morphological variation is strongly correlated with geography across North America, considerable overlap in flower, fruit, and leaf characters limit their use for taxon delimitation.

In contrast to morphology, molecular phylogenetic analyses recover three geographically well-defined clades within North America, with California Cercis forming a clade that is sister to a clade formed by Colorado Plateau and eastern North American clades.[11] Molecular dating suggests a divergence time among these three clades of at least 12 million years. These clades were also inferred from a distance-based analysis of Cercis in the United States with isozyme data as reported in an unpublished Ph.D. dissertation (Ballenger 1992). On the basis of these studies, Cercis is treated as comprising three species, with the Colorado Plateau and all Arizona specimens recognized as C. orbiculata, distinct from C. occidentalis from California and C. canadensis from eastern North America. This delimitation of species will also be employed for the treatment of the genus for Flora of North America (Ballenger and Vincent, in preparation).

The chain-flowered redbud (Cercis racemosa) from western China is unusual in the genus in having its flowers in pendulous 10 cm (4 in) racemes, as in a Laburnum, rather than short clusters.[citation needed]

Species names with uncertain taxonomic status[edit]

The status of the following species is unresolved:[10]

  • Cercis dilatata Greene
  • Cercis ellipsoidea Greene
  • Cercis florida Salisb.
  • Cercis funiushanensis S.Y.Wang & T.B.Chao
  • Cercis georgiana Greene
  • Cercis gigantea ined.—giant redbud (China)[1]
  • Cercis japonica Siebold ex Planch.
  • Cercis latissima Greene
  • Cercis nephrophylla Greene
  • Cercis nitida Greene
  • Cercis pumila W. Young
  • Cercis siliquosa St.-Lag.
  • Cercis texensis Sarg.
  • Cercis × yaltirikii Ponert (hybrid)


The wood is medium weight, somewhat brittle, of light tan color with a noticeably large heartwood area of darker brown, tinged with red. The wood has attractive figuring and is used in wood turning, for making decorative items and in the production of wood veneer.



  1. ^ a b c d "Genus: Cercis L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2011-04-17. Archived from the original on 2008-10-15. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
  2. ^ Wunderlin RP. (2010). "Reorganization of the Cercideae (Fabaceae: Caesalpinioideae)" (PDF). Phytoneuron. 48: 1–5.
  3. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  4. ^ a b "Cercis". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
  5. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Vol. I: A-C. CRC Press. p. 485. ISBN 978-0-8493-2675-2.
  6. ^ redbud. (2008). In The Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com/entry/columency/redbud
  7. ^ Jia H, Manchester SR (2014). "Fossil leaves and fruits of Cercis L. (Leguminosae) from the Eocene of western North America". International Journal of Plant Sciences. 175 (5): 601–612. doi:10.1086/675693. JSTOR 10.1086/675693. S2CID 84535035.
  8. ^ McNair, D.M.; D.Z. Stults; B. Axsmith; M.H. Alford; J.E. Starnes (2019). "Preliminary investigation of a diverse megafossil floral assemblage from the middle Miocene of southern Mississippi, USA" (PDF). Palaeontologia Electronica. 22 (2). doi:10.26879/906. S2CID 198410494.
  9. ^ "ILDIS LegumeWeb entry for Cercis". International Legume Database & Information Service. Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics. Retrieved 8 May 2014.
  10. ^ a b "The Plant List entry for Cercis". The Plant List. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden. 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Fritsch, P.W., C.F. Nowell, L.S.T. Leatherman, W. Gong, B.C. Cruz, D.O. Burge, and A. Delgado-Salinas. 2018. Leaf adaptations and species boundaries in North American Cercis: implications for the evolution of dry floras. American Journal of Botany 105(9): 1577–1594.
  12. ^ "Eastern redbud". Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2020.
  13. ^ Hopkins, M. 1942. Cercis in North America. Rhodora 44: 192--211.
  14. ^ Isely, D. 1975. Leguminosae of the United States: II. Subfamily Caesalpinioideae. Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden 25(2): 1--228.
  15. ^ Barneby, R. C. 1989. Fabales. In: A. Cronquist, A. H. Holmgren, N. H. Holmgren, J. L. Reveal, and P. K. Holmgren, eds. 1989. Intermountain Flora Volume Three. Part B. Bronx: New York Botanical Garden Press.
  16. ^ Fritsch, P. W., A. M. Schiller, and K. W. Larson. 2009. Taxonomic implications of morphological variation in Cercis canadensis (Fabaceae) from Mexico and adjacent parts of Texas. Syst. Bot. 34: 510--520.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]