Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
NW side of the Bird Sanctuary
In early spring this tree resembles a large outdoor bouquet of expensive pink flowers. The uninitiated might almost expect to see cherries appear later on, but would be disappointed - the late spring eruption of heart-shaped leaves would be a clue. (Cherry leaves are long, thin and pointed - see tree KC).
Eastern redbud is native to the American southeast, but is widely planted elsewhere because of its spectacular floral display. It can be a bit finicky regarding its environment (it hates "wet feet and too much summer moisture", according to one authority), and so can be expected to bring itself repeatedly to the attention of the WWU gardening staff.
This tree was planted in 2006, as an 8 ft. sapling. It has limited growth potential (to perhaps 40 ft.), and thus will never challenge the elms and Douglas firs growing nearby.
Several reference books list 'American Judas tree" as an alternative common name. This curious designation apparently originates because of an ancient folk belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from a cousin of our tree - Cercis Siliquastrum, a similar tree native to SE Europe and the Near East. The legend goes on to state that the tree thereafter was unable to form heavy branches (presumably to prevent further suicides). However, our redbud, although not implicated in any known suicides, is just as shrubby.
See Cercis canadensis on Wikipedia.