Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis L. (Fabaceae, legume family) is a widely distributed small tree (or large shrub) species native to the United States from Connecticut south to Florida and west to Oklahoma, Texas, and northeastern Mexico (Fritsch et al. 2009; Hopkins 1942; Kidwell-Slak and Pooler 2018; Robertson 1976). Every spring, it can be counted on for pink to magenta clusters of flowers to appear throughout the leafless canopy, just before vegetative budbreak. Over the past century, a number of white-flowered cultivars of C. canadensis have been widely distributed in the nursery trade, including ‘Alba’, ‘Royal White’, and ‘Texas White’, each of which produces pure white flowers, with no trace of red pigmentation. ‘Alba’ originated in the nursery of John Teas and Son in Carthage, MO, around the turn of the last century (Anonymous 1922; Rehder 1907) and ‘Royal White’ was discovered as a seedling in Bluffs, IL, in the 1940s (Kidwell-Slak 2023); both are cultivars of the common eastern redbud, C. canadensis var. canadensis. ‘Texas White’, derived from C. canadensis var. texensis (S. Watson) M. Hopkins, was released in the late 1960s by the German Nursery in Fort Worth, TX (Burns and Raulston 1993; Werner and Snelling 2010). White-flowered varieties of the western US species Cercis occidentalis Torr ex A. Gray, European and western Asian species Cercis siliquastrum L., and the Asian species Cercis chinensis Bunge have also been discovered and propagated (Kidwell-Slak and Pooler 2018). White-flowered sports have also been observed in Cercis yunnanensis H. H. Hu & W. C. Cheng and Cercis chingii Chun (Burns and Raulston 1993). Thus, although sports that lack any red pigmentation in the flowers of redbuds are not rare, to the best of our knowledge, a redbud cultivar with flowers whose petals are mostly white, as is the case here, has only been reported once before (‘Sjo’ US PP29,290 P2, Westervelt 2018). The cultivar we describe, C. canadensis ‘Arnold Banner’, is a sport of the common eastern redbud (C. canadensis var. canadensis) with extraordinarily unusual and beautiful nearly white flowers that retain the pink striping of the nectar guides on the banner petal; it was first brought to the public’s attention in 2013 in Arnoldia (Friedman 2013).
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Westervelt KD (inventor). Cercis plant named ‘Sjo’. 2018. Blueville Nursery Inc (assignee). US Plant Patent 29,290 P2. (Filed 22 Jun 2016, granted 15 May 2018). https://image-ppubs.uspto.gov/dirsearch-public/print/downloadPdf/PP29290.
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