Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cercis Occidentalis

Tree Love! The summer has been full of home construction, mostly hard scape in the yard and readying for new landscaping. A trip to the nursery in our local foothills yielded this find. It's a tree or it's a shrub, depending on your pruning skills. The one at the nursery grew in a shape reminiscent of a menorah. It's small leaves are heart shaped and how can you not love that? I was ready to sit down and start drawing. I was captivated.

Here is the official encyclopedia entry on this lovely specimen:

The western redbud (Cercis occidentalis syn. Cercis orbiculata Greene) is a small tree or shrub in the legume family. It is found across the American Southwest, from California to Utah.

The thin, shiny brown branches bear shiny heart-shaped leaves which are light green early in the season and darken as they age. Leaves on plants at higher elevation may turn gold or red as the weather cools. The showy flowers are bright pink or magenta, and grow in clusters all over the shrub, making the plant very colorful and noticeable in the landscape. The shrub bears 3-inch-long brown legume pods which are very thin and dry.

Native Californians used the twigs of the western redbud to weave baskets, and even pruned the shrub to encourage growth of new twigs. The bark provided a faint reddish dye for the finished basketry.

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