Who Are You Calling A Forest Pansy?

May 29, 2009 | By | Comments (27)

What’s the stupidest name you’ve ever heard of for a plant? For me, it’s a redbud called ‘Forest Pansy.’ Every time I hear it, I think of Richard Simmons sweatin’ with the Ewoks.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Now let me be straight about this. I like our native Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis). In fact, it’s one of the Grump’s favorite trees, because it’s easy to grow; has few serious pests; tolerates drought; and bears very showy — almost electric — pink, white, or rosy-purple flowers in spring before the leaves appear. A Southwestern form, Texas redbud (C. canadensis texensis), is even more more drought-resistant due to a waxy coating on its leaves. It also thrives in alkaline soils. Both make great lawn and patio trees and prefer full to partial sun.

But until ‘Forest Pansy’ came along, redbuds were all about flowers. Not anymore. Take a look.


The leaves of this cutie emerge a rich deep-purple. In areas with mild temperatures, they retain this color pretty much all summer. Here in Alabama, they hold it until it gets hot in mid-June, whereupon they fade to burgundy-green.

I don’t like too many purple-leafed trees (for example, ‘Thundercloud’ flowering plum is a plague upon the suburbs that should be stricken from the Earth), but ‘Forest Pansy’ redbud is a winner. If only they would change the moronic, sissified name.

Listen, marketers, this tree wasn’t found in a forest and it doesn’t look like a pansy. So come up with something better. How about ‘Purple Passion?’ ‘Purple Rain?’ ‘Grape Expectations?’ ‘Sherry Baby?’ ‘Merlot Choreographer?’

Anything but ‘Forest Pansy.’

What do you think, Grumpians? What are some of the stupidest names you’ve ever heard of for plants?


Need a good mail-order source for all sorts of redbuds? Try Sooner Plant Farm. Tell ’em Grumpy sent you. They’ll say, “Who’s that?”


  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    If all the leaves feel off in summer, the tree is dead. If they all fell off in the fall, it is probably OK. One way to test is to scratch the bark with a knife or fingernail. If the inner bark is green, the plant’s alive. If it’s brown, it’s dead.

    December 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm
  2. Tonia Taffaro

    I cant remember when I planted my Redbud Forest Pansy – I think it was in Spring, but it did really well for a while. Then all the leaves turned yellow and fell off. I know a lot of trees loose their leaves in winter, but how do you know if a tree is dead? I have a Cleveland Pear tree that did the same thing. I had it in a pot. Planted it. Then it died…

    December 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm
  3. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    How dare you toy with the Grump’s affections!

    August 31, 2009 at 3:45 pm
  4. Sue

    Dear Grumpy, I just “happened” on this website and I’m glad I did. Reading your piece on the Forest Pansy made me laugh – not such an easy thing to happen these days!! I think I love you!!! Just kidding…

    August 31, 2009 at 3:38 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    The best time to plant would be this fall. Sorry, but I can’t help with local sources.

    August 24, 2009 at 8:33 am
  6. Leigh

    I am looking to replace a tree lost in the drought a year ago. I’d like to replace it with an 6′-8′ “forest pansy redbud.” I don’t know much about these trees. I researched to find the name, there is one by our bank I have admired. Can anyone tell me when is the optimal time to plant & where can I find or order one locally? (zip 75025)

    August 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm
  7. Grumpy Gardener

    ‘Forest Pansy’ is just a purple-leafed form of Eastern redbud.

    August 20, 2009 at 8:47 am
  8. Rodrigo Dinsmore

    Is there a difference between a Forest Pansy and an Eastern Redbud?

    August 19, 2009 at 1:38 pm
  9. Albert Hendley

    Regarding your article in July Southern Living on three trees:
    Koelreuteria paniculata, Golden raintree is more invasive than you suggest. It is a wonderful tree and everything you describe but in Eastern Ohio Zone 6 it can be invasive.

    June 28, 2009 at 6:22 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener

    I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

    June 5, 2009 at 8:55 am
  11. chathamcorabbit

    According to some authorities on the subject, there IS something to be said about buds that are small, yet sweet…

    June 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm
  12. chathamcorabbit

    According to some authorities on the subject, there IS something to be said about buds that are small, yet sweet…

    June 3, 2009 at 9:44 pm
  13. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    No, not Helen ‘Big Buds’ alas, the buds are small, yet sweet.

    June 3, 2009 at 8:30 pm
  14. Grumpy Gardener

    Well, I know what bears do in the woods…..and wearing britches isn’t it.

    June 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm
  15. Tammy

    Bear’s breeches….do they mean britches? Do bears wear britches?

    June 3, 2009 at 12:08 am
  16. Joan Carris

    Terrific tree idea. It’s gorgeous and I didn’t even know about it. Can we grow it in coastal Carolina?
    On my website, for teachers, homeschoolers, and all readers of all ages, I have a Going Green page and plan an article about the wonder/beauty/usefulness of trees, so this new redbud will be of interest. Also, in my books, I often mention trees in their seasons, etc. A lovely tree is truly a miracle.

    June 2, 2009 at 9:37 pm
  17. Grumpy Gardener

    Let me guess, Helen. “Big Buds.”

    June 2, 2009 at 11:36 am
  18. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    I had the honor recently of helping to name a new Cercis being introduce in 2010 by Denny Werner at NCSU. He asked me and a friend to suggest a name and let the marketers choose. They choose the name my friend picked. I will say, both names were both dead on in describing the new Redbud. Sorry, I can’t tell you the name or even give a hint of what is to come. But let me tell you Grump, she’s a looker!

    June 2, 2009 at 10:16 am
  19. Drew

    Bachelor Button…..why not Married Woman Rose, or Gay Guy Gladiola. BB is not politically correct.

    June 2, 2009 at 9:46 am
  20. chathamcorabbit

    Gayfeather, pussytoes, “kneehighs” that are 3′ tall, purple flowers named “blue whatever”, purple flowers named “red whatever”, cleMATis and valerian because they remind me of things you need antibiotics for

    June 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm
  21. chathamcorabbit

    The same guy that named “Redbud”.

    May 31, 2009 at 11:23 pm
  22. Grumpy Gardener

    “Purple coneflower” has always bugged me. The flower is pink. Nothing purple about it. What bozo named this one?

    May 30, 2009 at 9:20 am
  23. Karen

    thanks for the info on the blue hydrangea 🙂 the plant stupid name in my opinion is “bleeding heart”

    May 29, 2009 at 7:06 pm
  24. Vikki

    Romeo and Juliet’s favorite…Love-Lies-Bleeding

    May 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm
  25. Lianne

    Mother-in-law’s tongue.
    Who plants that?!

    May 29, 2009 at 11:41 am
  26. Grumpy Gardener

    Simple. The flower color of French hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) varies according to the pH of the soil. Acid soil gives blue flowers; neutral or alkaline soil gives pink. You can change the color back to blue over time by adding aluminum sulfate, garden sulfur, or iron sulfate to the soil around your plants. Mulching with pine straw will also acidify soil.
    Now — what’s your stupid plant name?

    May 29, 2009 at 10:13 am
  27. Karen

    this is totally off your topic but I wonder if you could answer a question I have? I rooted some cuttings off of my big leave blue hydrangea last year and planted them this spring (all 7 of them)in a totally different area of the yard – low and behold I have pink hydrangea buds on the new plants. What the heck happened?

    May 29, 2009 at 8:34 am

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