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Pretty as Ever: The 80th Anniversary of the Redbud as Oklahoma’s State Tree

SULPHUR, OKLAHOMA -- Park guides at the Chickasaw National Recreation Area fan out every spring to find wildflowers in the park.

But one flower no one ever has to look for is guide Nancy Binderman's favorite, the Redbud.

"They're a native tree, a member of the pea family," she says.

Found in open woodlands where forests meet prairie, the Redbuds we know prefer sandy soil.

The Oklahoma variety is especially resistant to drouth and heat.

Nancy can even find them growing out of areas burned by wildfire.

"The tree can be completely burned to the ground," she says, "And a new tree will come up from the roots."

We've always like them.

Native tribes used their bark for medicine.

The flowers are even edible.

Binderman says they taste, "almost like a radish."

Back in 1937 a lady named Maimee Lee Robinson Browne headed up the Oklahoma City Beautification Committee and championed the Redbud.

She petitioned Governor E.W. Marland to recognize it officially.

On March 30th of that year, despite some controversy when another socialite in Tulsa named Roberta Campbell Lawson telegramed a last minute protest, a Senate resolution passed and the Redbud became our state tree.

"As a wild species it's basically isolated here to the Arbuckle Mountains," says Binderman of the Oklahoma Redbud variety.

Even in those days visitors would telephone the Platt National Park (as it was then named) to ask when the Redbuds were blooming so they could time their trips accordingly.

"They still call us and ask if the Redbuds are blooming yet," she says.

Look out across the hills near Sulphur in March and you can see them from a distance.

The Eastern Redbud and the Oklahoma Redbud, which was first identified in 1964, bloom together as proudly as ever.

Pink to purple, a small flower that sprays swaths of color deep into the forests of spring, piercing winter's cold heart, and ours too.