Tree of love, Judas tree

(Cercis siliquastrum)

What to know about this tree?

It is a deciduous tree. First, it gives the flower. The best known is purple pink, but there are also varieties of light pink or even white. It usually blooms in late winter, early spring, and surprises visitors with an impressive show, which usually lasts about two weeks. Then it begins to give its characteristic heart-shaped leaf. In autumn it loses its leaves, and only small brown pods containing the seeds are left hanging from the branches.

It is native of the eastern Mediterranean area. It is a tree that can grow in almost any type of soil, including arid soils. The important thing is that they are not too wet. It needs a lot of sun, and it is necessary to prune it little by little so that it adopts the form that we wish, since sometimes it grows a little unevenly. It bears well drought and temperatures as low as -10º, although it does not tolerate very long frosts. 

History

Where does it come from?

Originally from the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, it seems to have arrived in Europe at the time of the Crusades (around 1200) and its first destination was France. From there it spread quickly throughout Europe, where its high ornamental value was appreciated. In the Byzantine Empire it was quite common, especially in ancient Constantinople, where it grew abundantly on the banks of the Bosphorus. Today the ‘Erguvan’ (Turkish name) is still identified as a symbol of the city of Istanbul. 

Its common names

It is popularly known as the Judas tree because an ancient myth tells that, Judas Iscariot, after betraying Jesus Christ, hanged himself on one of these trees. It is probably a corruption of the common French name, arbre de Judée, in allusion to the region of Judea where it occurs. Another tradition mentions the shape of the seed pods hanging from the tree when the leaf is lost, which could look similar to a hanged man.

It is also known as the “Tree of Love”, because of the beautiful color of its flowers, but especially because of the heart-shaped leaves.

Others names are algarrobo loco, nandumbu, arjorán, ciclamor común or siclamor.

Its translation

English: Judas tree

Français: Arbre de Judée

Properties

The leaf has a spicy flavor and can be eaten in salads. Its fruits have been used in traditional medicine as astringents. Its bark is used for headaches and colds.

Author: Daniel Aguilera

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