The Judas Tree - Cercis siliquastrum

This is the very pretty small tree in the angle between the Gallery and the Cloister. In late Spring it is covered in pink pea-like blossom, some escaping directly from the trunk and branches. Later the light green rounded heart-shaped leaves appear, and the long seed pods can be seen, hanging vertically. By the autumn they have become flat and brown, staying to dangle from the tree right through the winter, and even mix with next year’s flowers.

It grows to between 10 – 15m and comes from Southern Europe and Western Asia, and this may be the source of its name, the dry limestone slopes of places like JUDEA, though in fact it survives well enough on our cold clay soils here.

The name is more commonly associated with the story of Judas Iscariot who it is said hanged himself from its branches. Seeing it in April in Rome, in full floral display, the branches flowing down over the high walls of the Forum, you can see why in Italy it is called Sangue di Juda.( Blood of Judas)

The Judas tree has been known in this country long enough to appear in 16th and 17th centuries Herbals and it is said that the flowers have an acidic bite and can be used in salads, or fritters. Pollination is by bees, and your own Judas tree can be grown very easily from seed.

Jill Manuel

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