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The Texas redbud is a small-to-moderate deciduous tree or bush found throughout the state. It is often used as an ornamental tree or multi-trunk shrub.
Texas redbud is a member of the Cercideae tribe which consists of six species of redbud trees that grow from the eastern U.S. to California and northern Mexico. The Texas redbud is separated from the others by a small difference in the growth habitat and leaf appearance.
Texas redbud is usually found on limestone soils from Oklahoma to Mexico.
It is easily spotted in the early spring by its small bright pink-to-purple pea-like flowers, which form in clusters against the gray bark. This makes them a very showy item in the pasture. The flowers appear before the emergence of the leaves.
The flowers will produce a legume “bean” that is 2-4 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide, tapering at both ends. The pod or “bean” is flat, very leathery and reddish brown, containing several small, flattened oblong seeds that are about 1/6-inch long.
Leaves are a very shiny dark green and are usually rounded or heart-shaped. They can vary in size from 2 to 6 inches long and 1-1/4 to 6 inches broad.
The bark is generally thin, smooth and gray when young, turning more reddish and beginning to roughen with fissures and scales as the tree matures.
Texas redbud is thought to be very good browse for goats and deer. The seeds are eaten by many bird species and the flowers are used by many pollinator species as an early food source.
The Texas redbud is a very close relative to the official state tree of Oklahoma, the Eastern redbud. There are records that show the redbud has been propagated since 1641 and in some cultures, parts of the plant are utilized for medical use as well as a source of food.
As part of the genus Cercis, redbuds are related to the species siliquastrum, also called the Judas-tree. This is said to be the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself.
The Texas redbud is rarely an issue on rangelands and pastures and should be considered an asset to the plant community.
Editor’s note: Kent Ferguson, retired rangeland management specialist from USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is providing us with plant identification photo stories to help ranchers identify those forbs, forages and species growing in the pastures. Additional photos provided by USDA NRCS.
Texas Redbud is excerpted from the May 2018 issue of The Cattleman magazine.