THE JUDAS TREE
The Judas tree - Cercis siliquastrum is just one of approximately 12 species within the Cercis genus. Eight of them are native to the old world, (more specifically southern Europe and China), while four are native to the new world. Reputed to be the tree species from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself, the origin of its common name may actually be a little less dramatic. It is more likely that it is a corruption of the French common name, Arbre de Judée, meaning 'Tree of Judea'.
The flowers are approximately 1 cm long, edible and purportedly have a sweet-acid taste. They can sometimes be damaged by spring frosts, so it is always best to site the Judas tree in a sheltered position away from strong northerly and easterly winds. Especially in cooler northern European climates.
It has a wide spreading habit with an approximate height of between 15-20 ft and a width of 10-15 ft. The leaves are broadly heart-shaped and somewhat glaucous. The blooms are a rich, rose-pink in colour, pea-shaped and borne in clusters of 3-6 on the naked stems, branches and trunk.
Once pollinated, flat, purplish seed pods approximately 12 cm in length are freely set, turning red-tinted as they ripen in late summer.
The Judas tree will perform well in any good garden soil positioned in a sunny or partially shaded site. However it will do best in deep, well-drained soils.
The cultivar Cercis siliquastrum 'Bodnant' gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit in 2014.
For related articles click onto the following links:
NHM: The Judas Tree
HOW TO GROW ARGYROCYTISUS BATTANDIERI
HOW TO GROW SWEET CHESTNUT
THE ‘NATIVE’ TREES OF ENGLAND
THE SILVER BIRCH - Betula pendula