The beautiful Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) is one of those few plants that is both a native and also is frequently planted as an ornamental. One look at its magenta-pink pea-like flowers makes its popularity clear.
The Eastern Redbud is not a tall tree, reaching perhaps 15 feet at maturity, and can be found in the understory of mixed forests beneath an overarching canopy of taller trees. It blooms better, however, if it can get a little more light, such as on a forest edge, in an opening or on a southern slope. Its flowers are all the more enjoyable because – like many other species of trees – it blooms in the spring before the leaves come out. The leaves are also attractive, taking the shape of a classic valentine heart. Once the blossoms are pollinated, redbud seeds ripen into a short, flat peapod that dangles from the branches throughout the summer.
Redbuds can be found in the Angle Fly Preserve around the ruins of the Tatham-Orvis mansion. This so-called gentleman’s farm once boasted magnificent gardens that were the pride of owner Warner D. Orvis who lived there with his family between the 1930’s and 1970’s. Remnants of his plantings can be recognized by an observant gardener, while photographs of the gardens in their glory are held in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Unfortunately, at least one of Orvis’s prized plants has gone rogue. Asian Wisteria vines have taken over much of the hillside, and along with other invasive vining plants had nearly strangled these redbuds. Fighting the invasive vines at Angle Fly Preserve can seem a task assigned to Sisyphus, but these photographs are evidence that the combined efforts of the Friends of Angle Fly volunteers do make a difference.