Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis)…you may know it by its rounded, heart-shaped leaves in the summer, or in autumn when the leaves turn blazing yellow, orange, and red, or perhaps you notice the red-brown dangling seed pods ornamenting bare branches in the winter. However, it is probably most recognizable right now in the springtime, when its namesake magenta flowers render redbud shrubs all over the California foothills the focal point of the landscape.
But don’t dismiss redbud as just another pretty plant. Its twigs are highly valued in Native American culture for their use in basketry; stalks are harvested in the winter for the red outer bark, or in spring for the white inner bark. Redbud flowers are edible to wildlife and humans (try them folded into a spring roll for added color). This medium-sized shrub is useful in habitat restoration for its ability to stabilize soils, re-sprout after fires, and tolerate drought. And of course, it is a prized centerpiece in home gardens.
Consider planting this attractive and useful native shrub in your garden, or just enjoy its beauty in the landscape throughout all seasons.