New Redbud to Grace Americas GardensBy Jesús García
October 20, 2000
Agricultural Research Service scientists have released to commercial breeders the first new redbud cultivar developed in the Floral and Nursery Plants Unit at the U.S. National Arboretum, Washington, D.C. The new cultivar, Don Egolf, is a variety of Cercis chinensis, or Chinese redbud. It was named for the late Dr. Donald Egolf, who was a respected breeder and plantsman at the Arboretum for over 30 years.
The seed was originally collected from cultivated plants growing around the city of Kunming, the capital of Chinas Yunnan province. Many researchers interested in collecting plant germplasm travel to China because its climate is similar to that of many parts of the United States.
The new redbuds profusion of rosy-purple flowers, compact structure, ease of propagation, seedlessness, and apparent high tolerance to Botryosphaeria dothidia canker have made it a welcome newcomer to nurseries across the country. Since 1994, cooperating nurseries throughout the eastern, southern, and midwestern United States have evaluated Don Egolf and given it high praise. Its ease of propagation by rooted cuttings is an especially valuable trait because redbud cultivars are notoriously difficult to propagate. Because the cultivar is seed-sterile, it produces no fruit, which enhances the shrubs appearance during winter.
The new redbud has a compact, vase-shaped, multi-stemmed structure and is hardy in USDA zones 6-9. Its dark-green, pest-resistant leaves turn yellow in autumn. The prolific bloom, structure, and foliage of Don Egolf make it well suited as a specimen plant, as a part of mixed plantings, or as a highlight at the edge of woodland plantings.
The new Don Egolf redbud cultivar is currently in the possession of wholesale growers who anticipate making the new redbud available to retailers by 2001-2002. Genetic material will also be deposited in the National Plant Germplasm System and made available for research and for developing and commercializing new cultivars.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agricultures principal scientific research agency.