Pittsburgh’s Redbud Project

Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)
Redbud blooming (photo by Dianne Machesney)

Imagine that Pittsburgh was as beautiful in the spring as Washington, D.C. during the Cherry Blossom Festival.

That’s the vision that local landscape architect Frank Dawson had when he proposed planting eastern redbud trees along Pittsburgh’s riverfronts.

This spring the dream is starting to come true.

Thanks to a grant from Colcom Foundation, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is launching the Pittsburgh Redbud Project.  From now through Spring 2017 they’ll plant 1,200 eastern redbud and other native trees in Downtown Pittsburgh and along the city’s riverfronts.  Everyone who helps through May 12 will get a free seedling. (They’re giving away 1,500 of them!)

Eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are understory trees in the Pea family that bloom in early spring.  Native from southern Pennsylvania to eastern Texas, they’re cultivated for their beauty because their rose-pink flowers open on bare branches before the leaves.

Come to the Redbud Project’s Launch Event on Tuesday, April 19 at 10:00am at the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near the Mister Rogers statue.  Students and volunteers will plant 60 trees along the riverfront.  Attendees get a free redbud seedling.  (Click here for more information, here to RSVP.)

Here’s a planting along River Avenue to give you an idea of the beautiful results.

Redbud trees along River Road, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)
Redbud trees along River Avenue, Pittsburgh, April 2016 (photo courtesy Western PA Conservancy)

More events and volunteer opportunities are coming in the weeks ahead. Click here for a list.  Get a free tree!

Soon our Downtown and riverfronts will be transformed.


(photos: redbud flowers’ closeup by Dianne Machesney. Row of redbud trees on River Avenue, courtesy Western Pennsylvania Conservancy)

9 thoughts on “Pittsburgh’s Redbud Project

  1. The only problem I see is that redbuds naturally grow along the edge of wooded areas. They like a little shade, especially in the afternoon. That planting along River Rd looks pretty dry and brutal for redbuds.

  2. The redbuds that grow down here in Louisiana don’t last long and seem to be vulnerable to high winds and inner rot. I hope these cultivars are bred to be strong! That said: yes, a mass planting of these gorgeous trees would definitely rival the cherry blossoms!

  3. We planted a cultivar that was definitely not like the native trees at our old house. The shape was tall and straight, not broad and twisted like you see them in the wild. And it grew in close to full sun with no problem.

    There is (or used to be) a beautiful mass of them along I-70 near Amaranth, PA, I believe, going south into Maryland. We pulled over on the shoulder to look at them one year…highly frowned upon by the police, I am sure.

    I have been wanting to redo one area of our yard to plant more native species there, including a few trees. Since we have an event to attend in Natrona Heights on the 23rd, I think we will try to stop on the North Shore and get one of the seedlings. Thanks so much for posting about this event, Kate!

  4. My redbud buds froze before I could enjoy them,thanks to last weeks weather!
    I am glad the project is coming along

  5. We planted a couple in our yard in the north hills of Pittsburgh. Very pretty spring blooming tree, but it has become invasive. Every year we get dozens of seedlings that have long tap roots and are hard to pull out.

  6. They are offering the Eastern Redbud at a city tree sale in Canada. I see it’s beautiful and is beneficial to birds, both things that I want. I will definitely be getting one.

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