The Judas Tree and its Spectacular Blooms

What you need to know about this legendary ornamental shrub

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By Alex

the judas tree

We all know the Judas Tree because of the legend associated with the traitor apostle Judas Iscariot, who chose the very branches of this plant to end his own existence after betraying the Messiah. But the true origins of its name are still shrouded in mystery.

Where is the Judas tree found?

This ornamental garden shrub is native to the Eastern Mediterranean and Asia Minor. In fact, it was once very widespread on all coasts and in regions with the most favorable climate. It was easily found in parks and gardens in those regions.

It has always been appreciated for its graceful shape and lively and copious flowering, as well as its small size.

judas tree

What are the characteristics of the Judas tree?

The botanical name is Cercis siliquastrum and it is a plant belonging to the Fabaceae (leguminous) family and the Cercis genus.

The Judas tree is a shrub with characteristics typical of perennial garden plants of great ornamental value: it has a very elegant and gentle bearing and is well resistant to drought. This plant prefers calcareous soils and full sun exposures.

Its adaptability makes it a perfect tree for cities, gardens and parks also because it needs very little care and is extremely resistant to air pollution.

The cultivation needs of the Judas tree are also very minimal in terms of watering during the summer period. However, it is essential to avoid water stagnation that could damage the plant’s root system.

Taking all these characteristics into consideration, this tree is perfect for those looking for an ornamental plant that is easy to grow and sure to have a scenic impact.

The flowers and the pods of the Judas tree

The leaves of this beautiful ornamental garden shrub are deciduous and heart-shaped. They are usually 5 to 10 cm wide and are dark green on the outside and dull green on the inside. During the spring season, the color of the leaves may turn bronze or golden yellow. The shade depends greatly on the climate and sun exposure of the plant.

Its beautiful pink-purple flowers grow grouped in clusters of 4-6. In their place after a few weeks, fruits appear in classic pods about 10 cm long and 2 cm wide. Near leaf fall they begin to dry up and then finally detach from the plant. The pod fruits (siliques), which ripen in July-August, are pendulous, reddish-brown, pointed and contain about ten black ovoid seeds.

Why is the Judas tree called like this?

In Christian tradition, the name of this tree is linked to the medieval belief created to explain the curious flowering on the bare bark, which peeps out even before the leaves appear on the branches. Legend has it that under this tree Judas gave the infamous kiss of betrayal to Jesus. Shortly thereafter, overwhelmed by inconsolable remorse, the apostle hanged himself there.

Legends aside, the name of this plant may be related to its region of origin, Judea, that is, present-day Palestine. Thus, tree of Judea and not of Judah, as is mistakenly thought. The mispronunciation may be the result of a trivial transposition error.

On the other hand, the etymology of the botanical name Cercis siliquastrum is easily explained: it comes from the Greek kerkís, which literally means “shuttle”, and the Latin siliqua, meaning “pod”. The reference is to the typical oblong shape of the fruit.

The significance of the Judas tree

Legend has it that Judas hanged himself after Christ’s betrayal from this ornamental shrub native to the Middle East, from which it takes its meaning as the tree of betrayal.

judas tree

How long do the flowers of the Judas tree last

What makes this tree special is certainly its lush blooms that peep out first on the bark of the trunk and then on the branches. The flowers, in fact, sprout on the bare bark even before the leaves and then thicken on the branches until they completely envelop them.

The color of the flowers usually ranges from purple-pink to purple and usually explodes in a floral jubilation that lasts only one month, however: from March to April.

What’s even more extraordinary is that it produces flowers that are edible both raw, for example in salads, and fried in batter. Some even preserve them in brine or pickle and then add them to soups.

judas tree

When to plant the Judas tree

Its cultivation does not present particular difficulties. It is a tree that lends itself to almost any soil, but it prefers calcareous soils, where it develops a good root system.

The best exposure is in full sun, sheltered from currents and rushing winds.

Watering should be sporadic, except during periods of prolonged drought. After the winter season, it is advisable to administer rich organic fertilizer to promote vegetative recovery and flowering.

Diseases of the Judas tree

The Judas tree can be susceptible to various diseases, including verticillium wilt, canker diseases, and leaf spot fungal infections, which can impact its overall health and appearance. Proper care and maintenance can help prevent and manage these issues.

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