Ask Outdoors Girl

May 08, 2010

Eastern Shore reader Bill Kearns writes: We just got back from Western Maryland and all along Interstate 68 there is a purple tree or bush on both sides of the highway. Nobody could identify it for us and the rest stop information centers are closed. If you could identify it for us, we would appreciate it.

Outdoors Girl replies: With apologies to Sam Cooke, don't know much about shrubbery. But Derrick Bender at the University of Maryland Extension of Allegany County does. The coordinator of the Master Gardener Program says the pretty vegetation is Eastern Redbud, an ornamental shrub or tree that is native to the region. After a dark, cold winter in Western Maryland, the blossoming of the redbud in spring "is an encouraging sign," he says. The tree has purple flowers, which begs the question, "Why is it called red when it's purple?" says Bender, anticipating Outdoors Girl's next move. "The guy who named it, his wife probably wasn't around that day." Eastern Redbud requires little maintenance, is very drought resistant and attracts relatively few pests, making it a great highway planting. Makes you wish we could see more of it and less of the oatmeal-colored sound barriers.

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