"When redbuds are a'bloom," the old man said to me, "that's nature's signal for a feller to go fishin'!"
A good example of angling phenology, as it turned out…for fish do seem to bite extraordinarily well when the redbuds brighten the greening woods with their showy blooms. All these years later, I still never see a redbud in bloom without remembering the connection—and subsequently wishing I could drop whatever it is I'm doing and go fishing.
Most of the year, the redbud goes unnoticed in the woods. Its heart-shaped leaves just another daub of green in a vast green sea. But not so in spring! Long before most trees have even partially leafed out, the redbud takes over the landscape with color. A party in pink! No other tree in the woods can compare—and more than a few folks consider the diminutive redbud to be the prettiest blooming tree around. That's doubtless why it's also so popular with landscapers and gardeners.
Redbuds are indeed as lovely as any tree I know—at least when they're in full and glorious bloom. The bright magenta-pink blossoms set off the green of the few new leaves—a hue that simply glows like a beacon within the darkest shadows. A single redbud a'bloom in a wild meadow is like a warm, rosy light; a hillside thick with redbuds dazzles as if the slope were being consumed by flames.
The redbuds hereabouts have been blooming for nearly three weeks. Right now, they seem to be at their showiest, blushing vigorously, the impact of their color transfixing the eye. It's hard to see anything else when the redbuds are putting on their spring show.
The Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is quite common throughout the eastern U.S. and lower Canada. Size-wise, I suppose you could consider it either a small tree or a very large shrub—depending on age and growing conditions. A big redbud tree would be 30-feet high and 10-inches in diameter. Often part of the forest's understory, redbuds also favor roadbanks and borderlands between woods and fields.
Though I grew up in a foraging family—we gathered and ate everything from various wild greens, to mushrooms, berries, nuts, and such fruit as pawpaws and persimmons—it wasn't until I reached my mid-twenties that I learned redbud blooms are quite tasty in salads, or when made into jelly. I've even sample redbud wine. Nowadays, I never pass a blooming redbud without pulling off a handful of the pinkish blossoms and having a taste to check on sweetness. And I often bring in a bag of blooms to add to salads.
The redbuds in these photos are located just up the road from the cottage—on the far side of the old field where I took most of the spring beauty shots from a couple of posts back. In another week or two, most of them will be fading…and soon they'll lose their magenta blossoms, put on their own green leaves, and simply blend into the crowd for the rest of the spring and summer. I hate to see them disappear.
I also hate that I can't go fishing today. I know they'd be biting…because the redbuds are in bloom!