The members of this genus, seven in number, constitute a very distinct and homogeneous group of hardy leguminous trees and shrubs whose resemblances to each other are as marked as are their differences from the other genera of the family Leguminosae. Their leaves furnish the most distinctive feature of the genus, being alternate, simple, entire, prominently five- or seven-nerved, broad and rounded, with a heart-shaped base, and from 2 to 6 in. long. The flowers in most of the species come in fasciculate clusters on wood one to many years old; but one Chinese species (C. racemosa) has them in racemes. The petals are nearly equal, but arranged somewhat after the fashion of a pea-shaped flower.
Few shrubs or small trees are more beautiful than the hardy species of Cercis at their best. They enjoy and merit generous conditions at the root, and succeed best in a deep, sandy loam, and should have as sunny a position as possible. Plants should be given a permanent position whilst still young, as the long, thick roots are liable to decay after the inevitable injury involved in transplanting old trees by ordinary means. Whatever transplanting is necessary should be done in May, and not until the expanding buds give some indication that active growth has recommenced. The most insidious enemy of these trees in my experience is the coral-spot fungus, for which drastic surgery is the only remedy; the affected branches should be cut back to undoubtedly healthy wood, and the wounds thoroughly covered with a protective dressing. The older and well-known species are propagated by seed, and this, of course, is preferable for all; but the newer species may be grafted on roots of C. siliquastrum or C. canadensis.