Redbud Cauliflory

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Yesterday, horticulturist extraordinaire Scott Zanon sent me a lovely image of an eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) in flower from Upper Arlington in the Columbus, Ohio area. It exhibited what he called “cauliflowered” blooms. I had seen this before, in New York City’s Central Park on that most oxymoronic of all plant monikers, the white redbud. 


white redbud in Central Park
White redbud in Central Park years ago, exhibiting a "corsage-like" cauliflory


White redbud
More typical flowering on a white redbud stem shown at Chadwick Arboretum in past years.


First of all, redbuds do exhibit cauliflory, defined in Wikipediese as “a botanical term referring to plants that flower and fruit from their main stems or woody trunks rather than from new growth and shoots. This can allow trees to be pollinated or have their seeds dispersed by animals that climb on trunks and sturdy limbs to feed on the nectar and fruits.”


Redbuds are not the only cauliflorous plants, joined by such luminaries as Theobroma cacao, the cocoa plant) and Carica papaya, the papaya plant. But cauliflory is an unusual feature. The truly unusual aspect on these Upper Arlington and Central Park redbuds, though, is the clustering, almost “corsage-like” mass of flowers and fruits adorning the stems. Does anybody know what causes this?


Redbud flowers
What a sight - cauliflowered caulflory


Fruit cauliflory on redbud
Fruit caulflory in the Columbus area


As you ponder, enjoy the explosions of redbuds in central Ohio now and ready to burst forth in northern Ohio as you enjoy this warm weekend. There are ten species of redbuds (family: Fabaceae) worldwide, four in the Americas. There are many wonderful cultivars of redbud on the market now, including weepers, purple and yellow/apricot leaved forms, variegated types, and yes, those white-flowered forms to go with the more common lavender, pink-purple, and pink-flowered types.


weeping redbud
'Covey' weeping redbud on the OSU Columbus campus


'Pink Pom Pom' redbud
'Pink Pom Pom' redbud at Secrest Arboretum


Add redbuds to your garden. And consider these words of Michael A. Dirr and Keith S. Warren in their 2019 “The Tree Book”:


The authors are apostolic advocates for increased use, as single specimen, grouping, woodland edges, color, accent.  Every city, town, municipality, and garden should enthusiastically embrace redbuds; they add seasonal ornamental attributes to landscapes, rewarding with expressive and much-anticipated spring flowers, elegant and artistic branching structure, clean dark summer foliage, and respectable yellow fall color.”


Don Egolf redbud
One last redbud; Cercis chinensis 'Dog Egolf' this Spring at Secrest Arboretum. I suspect that the unusual combination of hues is due to some of the flower buds being damaged by frost: beautiful, though.