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Shawnee: Redbud City of Oklahoma

Updated: Mar 1

80 years ago, Shawnee, Oklahoma, was named the Redbud City of Oklahoma. This designation was adopted by the Shawnee City Council on April 9, 1940, and was confirmed with a resolution by the Oklahoma Legislature that was signed by Oklahoma Gov. Leon Phillips on Feb. 19, 1941. (Shawnee itself is much older having been incorporated in 1894.)

The Shawnee News Star tells who was responsible for this designation:

The Shawnee Council of Garden Clubs was responsible for this recognition. Beginning in the late 1930s club members ordered thousands of bare-root Eastern Redbud trees and sold them to the public for twenty-five cents each. They were planted at homes, churches, schools, and public parks. The park receiving the most redbud trees was named Red Bud Park. It is in the 900 block of Broadway and extends to Beard Street.

The Eastern Redbud tree is the Oklahoma State Tree. It tends to grow wild in woods as an understory tree. Many new trees develop from the seeds dropped during the summer. In the book, Putting Down Roots, Cercis Canadensis, describes the trees:

Oklahoma’s state tree, the redbud is prized for its striking physical characteristics and adaptable nature. The shiny, heart-shaped leaves are attractive on the low branching stems and emerge after the spectacular blooms of spring have faded. Redbuds make wonderful trees for urban areas, due to their moderate size, broad-spreading canopies, and low maintenance requirements. However, this tree needs consistent care during the establishment period of at least the first three years.

To help school children know and remember their state tree, in 1999 through 2001 the former Shawnee Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee distributed small redbud trees to 3rd and 4th grade students along with a booklet “How to Plant My Baby Redbud Tree.” The book was illustrated by Brian Borth, a Shawnee High School student. Shawnee continues to help people know and remember the tree through the Redbud Festival held annually.

A redbud tree blooms against a blue sky, and a train station sits in the distance.
A redbud tree blooms against the bright blue spring sky just outside of the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown Shawnee.

Where do you see Redbuds?

A drive around town, especially through older neighborhoods will provide a beautiful sight. Be sure to include Rose Garden Park in the 2000 block of North Broadway. It features Oklahoma Redbuds at the corner and Eastern Redbuds to the west along Franklin Street. Shawnee Milling has a row of Oklahoma Redbuds along 7th street between Bell and Beard Streets. For a spectacular sight, drive by St. Paul’s United Methodist Church at 10th and North Beard. The church is bordered on two sides with beautiful redbuds.


As you visit Shawnee and take pictures of the redbuds, be sure to tag us or use #ShawneeOK so we can see and share your pictures.


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