Fire Can Facilitate Germination of Redbud Tree Seeds

Author: Meera, November 25, 2013

Seems strange that any plant seed could germinate by fire, but fire cracks the seed coat of the Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), permitting germination to occur.  Redbud trees undergo rampant re-sprouting following a fire.


The Native Americans who favored the lovely red bark and straight new shoots of saplings for their basket weaving understood this.  In fact, long before California was settled by European Americans, the Native American tradition was to selectively set fire to hillsides, canyon slopes, and dry river beds dotted with redbuds to stimulate a proliferation of new saplings.


Wondering how to germinate a redbud without fire, I conducted a little research and learned that if I poured boiling water over the seed (after removing it from the seed pod) and then allowing it to rest overnight before planting it in well-drained soil, it most likely would germinate. Once germinated, the young tree is relatively easy to grow. See


It just so happens that behind the Henny Penny Farmette, a neighbor has several redbud trees that have dropped many pods in the last month or so. Last year, I tried transplanting a sprout or two without success. This winter, I’ll start from seed, but I think I’ll go the boiling water route to germination.


These trees are a sight to behold when they are in full bloom, around mid-March. The Western Redbud is also known as the California Redbud. There is an Eastern variety as well.




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