Usually the abundant, branch-covering, pink flowers of Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) are enough to make this small tree a valuable garden subject. "Forest Pansy" Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis "Forest Pansy") not only has bright spring flowers, but it adds further color with purple leaves that appear after the flowers. The leaf color lasts all through the summer but becomes less intense. "Forest Pansy" is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9.
"Forest Pansy" Origin and Characteristics
Originally named "Purple Leaf" redbud, this plant was introduced by Charles Keel and Eugene Nunley of Forest Nursery Co. as "Forest Pansy" in 1965. New foliage is an almost-startling bright deep red. As the leaves expand with spring growth, they become a dark purple-green. The University of Florida Extension reports that "Forest Pansy" may be less drought-tolerant than Eastern redbud.
"Forest Pansy" grows to reach 20 to 30 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide. Trees live from 40 to 150 years. Growth is somewhat irregular in young trees, but as they grow the branching structure develops, and a wide-canopied, flat-topped, vase-shaped tree results. As do most redbuds, "Forest Pansy" inclines toward a multitrunked tree, but plants can be trained into a single trunk. To perpetuate this cultivar's features, "Forest Pansy" is rooted from cuttings. Plant young trees in the spring after frosts are over or in the fall before freezing weather occurs for best establishment.
Flowers and Fruits
"Forest Pansy" flowers are shaped like tiny sweet peas, and it takes many of them to give the showy spring flower display. Flower color is variously described as medium pink, pink, red or purple. According to redbud expert Laurence Hatch, the little structure beneath the flower called the calyx is dark red in "Forest Pansy" rather than the typical pink. Flat, beanlike pods develop after flowering, turning from green to purplish or brown as they mature. They may stay on the tree into winter after the leaves fall.
Although generally problem-free, stem canker can seriously affect "Forest Pansy." This fungus disease attacks branches that have been wounded or have dead or dying tissue, causing a canker, or sore. The canker can spread around the branch, girdling it so the sap can't move into and out of the branch beyond the canker. The fungus can be fatal if it spreads into the tree. Be observant for canker development and prune out affected branches.
Before pruning, clean the pruner blades with a cloth soaked in a rubbing alcohol solution. Clean the pruners after each cut so you don't spread the disease. Verticillium wilt, another fungus disease, also can infect trees and can kill them. Look for wilted branches on otherwise healthy trees, and remove them as soon as you find them, cleaning the pruners before and after each cut. No treatment cures these diseases once they infect a tree.
- Fine Gardening: Eastern Redbud Cercis Canadensis "Forest Pansy"
- The Redbuds: Varieties of the Genus Cercis from Cultivars of Wood Plants (CWP); Laurence C. Hatch
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Cercis Canadensis "Forest Pansy" "Forest Pansy" Eastern Redbud
- Cal Poly Urban Forest Ecosystems Institute: Purple Leaf Eastern Redbud Cercis Canadensis "Forest Pansy"
- Photo Credit Le Do/Hemera/Getty Images
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