Cercis siliquastrum – Judas tree

Origin and Distribution

Judas tree is native to Southern Europe and the Near East. It belongs to the legume family. 

Description

Judas tree grows as a large deciduous shrub or small tree. It reaches a height of 4 to 6 m. Its leaves are arranged alternately and are round with a heart-shaped base. One leaf can be up to 12 cm long. In autumn the leaves are changing from light green to yellow. Its flowers are intensively pink and arranged in small racemose clusters. The flowers appear in April before the leaves. They only grow out of older parts of woody branches and the trunk. This is called cauliflory which is much more common in the tropics than in Europe. In autumn long, leathery-brown pods are developing, with a length of 10 to 12 cm. These pods usually stick at the tree during winter.

Interesting Facts

The blossoms of the judas tree are edible. They have a sweet and sour taste and can be used as a decorative spot of colour in a salad. The wood is very hard and attractively grained. It is mostly used as veneer wood.

The tree got his name because of a legend, saying that Judas Ischariot had hung himself from a Cercis tree.

Garden Design

Its picturesque habitus, paired with its sensational pink flowers and the high resistance against pests and drought makes the judas tree a valuable ornamental plant.  It is perfectly suitable for smaller gardens or flower pots in cities.

The judas tree prefers a warm and very sunny place to grow, with calcareous soil. It survives heat periods without any problem and is also suitable as espalier tree on south facing walls. In the first years after planting the judas tree is a bit sensitive to frost. That’s why it should be planted in spring time. A lot of varieties with diverging colours are known such as the variety ‘Alba’ with pure white flowers.