How to collect Eastern Redbud Tree seeds! The Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis) is one of the prettiest flowering ornamental trees that is native to North America. This is a great addition to any yard or landscaping that provides benefits for wildlife, is attractive, and is very versatile in where it can grow.
The Eastern Redbud Tree
Eastern Redbuds are deciduous trees that reach 25-30′ in height (8 m-10 m) with a spread of around 20′. It is often a multi-trunk tree that has a bent, crooked, or just irregular trunk shape. The tree still crowns nicely though, and flowers in early Spring providing valuable nectar to native pollinators. The pink flowers are very prominent and stunning, as they appear prior to leaves. It is hardy to zone 4 and can tolerate a wide variety of conditions, as it can grow 2′ per year in full sun but is normally an understory tree under the forest canopy (full shade).
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Some general considerations on saving seed from Eastern Redbud Trees
Although this tree is common throughout the Eastern United States, local variations have evolved over millennia. For instance, if you gather seed from trees in the extreme northern range of this tree, the seed may have increased cold treatment requirements. Conversely, if you gather seed from a wild tree in Florida, it may readily germinate with minimal stratification time! Eastern Redbud Trees can have large physical variation just the same as any other plant or creature.
Furthermore, there are numerous hybrids or cultivars available. If you are taking from a cultivar, it is quite likely that the seed will retain most of the physical characteristics of the parent tree via recessive genes, as this study has shown.
Illustrated Guide with Pictures to save seeds from Eastern Redbud Tree
Saving seeds from the Eastern Redbud Tree are quite easy. And following this process / illustrated guide will make it fool proof for you.
Identify Eastern Redbud Trees – If you notice locations of Eastern Redbuds in early Spring, make a mental note as to where they are. You can then return to these trees in early Fall to collect the seeds. Since they are so prominent in flowering they are quite easy to spot from a good distance away. Also, since it is a popular landscaping tree you can often just remember the house that has the tree and ask the owner for permission to return in the fall for seed collection.
However, if you know the general location, then you need to find the trees before the leaves drop. But here are a couple of helpful hints to identify the trees after flowering. If you find a tree in the forest that satisfies each step/bullet point below, then you can be confident that you have successfully identified the correct tree!
Look for the heart shaped leaves. Eastern Redbud have heart-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the Fall.
Look for the scaly bark and crooked trunk
Check for dried seed pods that are approximately 3″ long (7.5 cm) by 1/2″ wide (12 mm). They will be hanging from the branches and limbs. I’ve put several pictures below showing the pods attached to the trees for reference.
Remove the Seed Pods
Gently pull the seed pods off the tree and place into a bag. Pull from the base, where the pods attach to the tree. And use caution, as sometimes the pods can open up and the seed may fall to the forest floor. If this happens, it will be difficult to locate seeds as they are dark brown.
Tip – jumping up and grabbing a limb, pulling it down and holding it with one hand can let you get many more pods. However, a small ladder can help too. The limbs are of younger trees are generally flexible enough to do this without much effort. And I’ve never snapped a limb or branch doing this.
Now, take them home and separate the seeds from the seed pod. This can be a bit tedious, as you want to make sure you don’t damage the or crush the seeds when opening the pods. I lay the pod on a scrap piece of wood, and then take a sharp knife and slice along the edge. Then I can just open the pod up and dump the seeds out. The seeds are generally large, so they don’t get lost easily.
Note – the number of seeds in an Eastern Redbud Tree seedpod vary greatly. I’ve opened sealed pods with as few as a single seed to having 5-10 seeds in a single pod.
TIP – I only keep nice plump seeds. Sometimes you will find very thin seeds in the pod. I generally discard these, and I don’t believe them to be viable.
TIP – studies have found that the larger seeds germinate at higher rates! Not just by a little, but an increase from roughly 60%-90% germination rate! So make sure you don’t discard the larger seeds!
Store the seeds
Take the seeds home and store them in a zip-lock bag or air-tight container in the refrigerator. Keep them there until you are ready to winter sow them a few months later. I generally try to plant them around Christmas or January.
If you don’t store them in the refrigerator, you can still get some germination. But the germination rate will be much lower than if you kept them refrigerated.
Now that you have got the seed, why not check out our illustrated guide on how to GERMINATE and GROW this lovely tree for your yard! Click below to learn how:
Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you!
Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!