This month’s Fulham Palace plant of the month is the eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis. We have three young specimens growing in the Compton beds that are currently displaying beautiful pea-flowers in a bright pink colour. Similarly to its close relation, the Judas tree, C. siliquastrum, its flowers blossom from bare branches and turn into purple seed pods. The leaves are a unique heart shape.
As with all plants grown in the Compton beds, Bishop Compton grew this tree at Fulham Palace during his time as the Bishop of London from 1675 to 1713. It is not known who introduced the plant to England from its native eastern North America. Richard Bradley, who later became the first professor of botany at Cambridge University, described in one publication how Compton enjoyed a scattering of rebud flowers on his ‘sallets’. The refreshing, acid taste of the eastern redbud’s blooms was valued by Native Americans and were consumed raw or boiled.