Contributing Writer - Clea Levinson, Intern
As the weather slowly warms and thoughts of three feet of snow are distant memories, we can turn our attention to the beginnings of spring. Early March is the perfect time to watch your favorite tree go from thin branches with dormant leaves to the colorful spectacle we know and love.
We are kicking off our new Tree of the Month series by highlighting two trees that bloom purple or red before leafing out - the Eastern redbud and the Katsura tree.
The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a large shrub or small tree that is native to eastern North America. It can be found from southern Ontario to northern Florida.
The trunk tends to be dark in color and smooth and forms scaly ridges appear once mature. The leaves are alternate, simple and heart shaped. At 3-5" long and wide, they tend to be thin and papery and may be slightly hairy below. Flowers are light pink to dark magenta, and they bloom in clusters on the branches from March to May.
The Eastern redbud is a hardy, fast-growing ornamental tree that does well in dappled shade. Although you won't see them in your local Safeway any time soon, the redbud flowers and seeds are edible. Native Americans used to eat the flowers raw or boiled and the seeds roasted.
Casey Trees has planted 351 redbuds across the District including at Marie Reed Learning Center, along Massachusetts Avenue NW and Harbor Square.
The Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is native to China and Japan.
It is a medium-sized, deciduous tree often grown for its foliage. It grows 40 to 60' tall and often has multiple trunks. The leaves of the Katsura tree are heart-shaped and go from mid-green in the spring/summer to yellow, red and orange in the fall. Katsura is the Japanese name for the tree while the scientific name refers to the resemblance of its leaves to the redbud. Not to fear, Katsura tree leaves can easily be distinguished because they are opposite, not alternate.
This tree likes a lot of sun and can get quite large given space. While fast growing, they are sensitive to drought and need permanent moist soil. It’s also been noted that in autumn the fallen leaves give off a caramel sugar smell. Take note - while they may smell like caramel, they certainly do not taste as such.
Casey Trees has planted 25 Katsura trees across the City including at St. Paul's Rock Creek Church, Our Lady Queen of the Americas and at the University of the District of Columbia.
Casey Trees plants both the Eastern redbud and Kastura at Community Tree Planting events. Both also qualify for our $50.00 Tree Rebate program.
To find all of Casey Trees-planted Eastern redbuds and Katsura trees on the Casey Trees Map, click here. I also encourage you to add any Eastern redbuds, Katsura trees or any other tree species you have recently planted or an existing one that is not included to the map.