THE EASTERN REDBUD
HOW IT BECAME THE OKLAHOMA STATE TREE
Oklahoma has a colorful history when it comes to selecting state symbols and the state tree is no different. The Oklahoma Redbud War of the 1930s began when Oklahoma City resident Marmie Lee Brown wrote a letter to the governor suggesting that the Eastern Redbud become the official state tree. The governor was about to make it official when he received a telegram from Tulsa resident Roberta Lawson, president of the Federated Women’s Club, suggesting that the redbud was the tree Judas Iscariot used to hang himself after betraying Christ. The suggestion that the redbud was, in fact, the “Judas Tree” of the Bible set off a national firestorm with stories appearing in newspapers and magazines around the country including Time and Newsweek. The issue was quite controversial for the governor but was eventually resolved when church hierarchy declared that the Bible never mentioned a redbud. As a result, the Eastern Redbud became the Oklahoma state tree in 1937.
The Eastern Redbud is a deciduous tree (tree that sheds leaves seasonally) and is native to North America. It is often multi-trunked with a rounded crown and is extensively planted throughout Oklahoma. The tree has heavy, hard, and close-grained wood and its heart-shaped blooms are reddish-pink in color, though the blooms can also be white. The buds emerge from the bark of the twigs and branches and adorn the entire tree with clusters of flowers. The flowers appear before the leaves creating a striking appearance in early spring painting the landscape of the Sooner State pink. After flowering, flat bean-like pods resembling snow peas appear. In the fall, foliage colors include reddish-purple, orange and yellow. The tree is highly valued as an ornamental tree and grows to approximately 12-18 feet high, though it can reach heights as tall as 30 feet. They work well as understory trees and are stunning when planted in groups.
CARING FOR AN EASTERN REDBUD
The redbud is quite adaptable and requires minimal care. Mulch can be placed around the trunk of the tree, but should not touch the trunk to help retain moisture. Redbuds do well in most soil types but do require adequate drainage. They should receive partial shade, though they will produce more blossoms when exposed to full sun. Redbuds are susceptible to canker and borers, so regular tree maintenance, including annual inspection by an ISA Certified Arborist, is recommended.
Whether you refer to the state tree as the Eastern Redbud or a Judas tree, there is no denying its beauty. In fact, there are various Redbud Festivals held each year, including ones in Denton, Texas, Honaker, Virginia, and Columbus, Wisconsin.