Pittsburgh Redbud Project
The Pittsburgh Redbud Project is an exciting initiative of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy funded by Colcom Foundation. The project launched in 2016 to plant thousands of flowering Eastern redbuds and complementary native trees on trails, hillsides and open spaces in downtown Pittsburgh in view of the city’s riverfronts.
Thanks to five years of planting thousands of trees through the Pittsburgh Redbud Project, we are welcoming spring in Pittsburgh with vibrant bursts of pink color from native Eastern redbud trees lining the city’s trails, promenades, hillsides, parks and open public spaces along the three rivers in downtown Pittsburgh. With the help of Pittsburgh Redbud Project volunteers and partners, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has planted 3,267 new trees at several locations along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers.
This idea was developed by Pittsburgh native and landscape architect Frank Dawson to introduce bursts of natural color to downtown Pittsburgh’s three rivers through the planting of thousands of native redbud and complementary tree species. Frank observed that, “In early spring, when the landscape is still varying hues of brown and grey, the last vestiges of winter, you sporadically come upon the delicate burst of pink of the redbud tree, dappling the tree line.”
Simply put: Redbuds are beautiful, flowering trees and are among the first native tree species to bloom each spring. Flowering occurs before the trees' leaves form. Flowers are usually pink, but can have either white or purple foliage. Some wildlife feed on redbud seeds and bees use the trees' flowers for honey production. Evergreen trees, other flowering trees and shrubs have also been planted along with the redbuds to provide tree diversity and encourage tree health. These trees introduce bursts of spring color to and enhance visual interest around downtown Pittsburgh’s three rivers. As these trees mature and the canopy grows, the area will continue to transform with even more native beauty while adding to the city's tree canopy, among several other tree benefits.
In addition to the pretty blooms and flowers, the Pittsburgh Redbud Project has undertaken riparian buffer restoration efforts along the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Since 2016, non-native, invasive plants are being replaced with thousands of native trees, shrubs and perennial plants that are providing food and habitat for wildlife and improving water and air quality. Here are the types and quantity of native vegetation planted to date:
- Trees: 3,267
- Shrubs: 1,429
- Perennials/grasses: 8,261
Every good project starts with great collaboration. Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is the managing partner for the Pittsburgh Redbud Project with Riverlife and the City of Pittsburgh as collaborating partners. This project is funded by Colcom Foundation in recognition of the foundation’s 20th anniversary. Many individual volunteers and volunteer groups have helped plant trees in downtown Pittsburgh, Point State Park and Frank Curto Park, on Mount Washington, near Carnegie Science Center and along the North Shore. Through this project, the Conservancy has also given away more than 2,000 redbud tree saplings or seeds to volunteers and community members.