Forest Pansy redbud shines

I’ve been a fan of redbuds all my life. They’re some of our finest spring-flowering trees. When they follow that up with great foliar color, so much the better.

Effective use of this lovely tree against dark green foliage. Click image for larger view.

That’s how it is with Forest Pansy redbuds. They have rich burgundy blooms in late February and March depending on where you are here in Texas. When the leaves start emerging, they’re even better. They’re large, and they’re maroon-purple, a striking contrast against the bright green new growth of so many of our other Texas shade trees.

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When I decided to go into commercial broadcasting in 1978, I needed a second job to be sure I could keep my family fed. I worked as staff photographer for Horticultural Printers of Mesquite, and one of my assignments was to go to McMinnville TN, a heartland of the American nursery industry. It’s one of two cities I’ve visited where the sign over the front door of the hardware store said “Paint, Hardware, Nursery Supplies.” I believe I counted 208 wholesale nurseries in the phone directory.

One of my assignments in McMinnville was to photograph products at the Forest Nursery Company there, and halfway through my day I leaned up against a large tree to eat my lunch. About the time I unwrapped my cookie I realized I was propping up against a huge Forest Pansy redbud – the mother tree of this cultivar. I’ve remembered that day and that tree every time I’ve seen one since.

This was the tree that turned my head earlier this week in Allen. Thanks to cooler weather and abundant rainfall, it’s still holding its purple color. Click image for larger view.
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What you’ll want to know…
Scientific name: Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
Common name: Forest Pansy redbud
Mature size: 20 ft. tall and 25 ft. wide.
Foliar color is best in full or nearly full sun, but the tree also will tolerate shade like other redbuds.

You can see the richness of color in these leaves of Forest Pansy redbuds. As with most purple-leafed plants, this color will fade to dark green as temperatures rise. That is to be expected.

Deciduous with unremarkable yellow fall color.
Bloom color: Deep burgundy produced early in spring before leaves emerge. Flowers last 12-18 days.
Trees are grafted, so if anything should happen to the top growth, resprouts that appear from below the graft line will not be Forest Pansy.
Forest Pansy shows best when it is planted adjacent to and in front of various shades of green for contrast.
Insect pests include leafrollers and borers among others.
Life expectancy in Texas conditions averages 15 to 30 years – longer in the more favorable settings of East Texas.

I thought you might like to see two other unusual redbud varieties. Ruby Falls on the left is tightly compact and Rising Sun on the right produces golden yellow leaves on new growth in late spring and early summer. Click images for larger views.

Note: Here is a link to showcase many other fine redbuds, many with interesting growing-season foliage.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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