Cercis siliquastrum

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Judas tree
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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Genus: Cercis
Species: C. siliquastrum
Binomial name
Cercis siliquastrum
  • Siliquastrum orbicularis Moench

Cercis siliquastrum, commonly known as the Judas tree or Judas-tree,[1] is a small deciduous tree from Southern Europe and Western Asia which is noted for its prolific display of deep pink flowers in spring.


Flowers sprouting from old growth
Trunk and bark

This species forms a small tree up to 12 m (39 ft) in height and 10 m (32 ft) in width.[2]

The deep pink flowers are produced on year-old or older growth, including the trunk, in late spring. Also, the flowers display a blossom with five free petals and fused sepals. This shape is specific to the Fabaceae. The leaves appear shortly after the first flowers emerge. These are cordate with a blunt apex, which occasionally has a shallow notch at the tip. The tree produces long flat pods that hang vertically. The flowers are edible and purportedly have a sweet-acid taste.[2]


A botanical illustration from 1891

The species was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 and he gave it the specific epithet of siliquastrum which is derived from the Latin word siliqua, meaning "pod".[3] The generic name comes from the Greek kerkis, a "shuttle", which refers to the resemblance shown to this weaver's tool by the flat, woody seedpods.[4]

There are several varieties and subspecies and these include:

  • var. hebecarpa Bornm.
  • nothosubsp. yaltikirii (Ponert) Govaerts
  • var. siliquastrum
  • var. alba Weston

Distribution and ecological aspects[edit]

Flowers and pods
Cercis siliquastrum - MHNT
The cultivar 'Alba'
Psyllids (Cacopsylla pulchella) on a Judas Tree leaf.

The flowers are pollinated by bees, attracted by nectar. Pollen from the protuding stamens is deposited on the bee's body and carried to another flower's stigma.[5]

In Israel the tree has a status of a protected plant.


The species prefers deep, well-drained soils and a position in full sun or partial shade.[2] This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[6]

Cultivars include:

  • 'Afghan Deep Purple'[7]
  • 'Alba' - white flowers[7]
  • 'Bodnant'[7]
  • 'Carnea'[7]
  • 'Fructa Rubra'[7]
  • 'Penduliflora'[7]
  • 'Rubra' - dark pink-purple flowers
  • 'Sterilis'[7]
  • 'Variegata'[7]
  • 'White Swan'[7]

The tree is susceptible to leafhoppers, scale insects and psyllids (specifically Cacopsylla pulchella) as well as diseases including canker, coral spot and verticillium wilt.

Propagation is by seed, cuttings or budding.

The species produces hard wood with an attractive grain. It is used in veneers and polishes well.[2]


There is a long-standing myth that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from a tree of this species. This belief is related to the common name "Judas tree", which is possibly a corrupted derivation from the French common name, Arbre de Judée, meaning tree of Judea, referring to the hilly regions of that country where the tree used to be common.[8] Another possible source for the vernacular name is the fact that the flowers and seedpods can dangle direct from the trunk in a way reminiscent of Judas' suicide.[4]

A sermon illustration on the deadly effects of succumbing to temptation refers to an idea that the Judas Tree killed bees drawn to it: "Dr. Cuyler forcibly illustrates this by reference to the Judas tree. The blossoms appear before the leaves, and they are of a brilliant crimson. The flaming beauty of the flowers attracts innumerable insects; and the wandering bee is drawn after it to gather honey. But every bee which alights upon the blossom, imbibes a fatal opiate, and drops dead from among the crimson flowers to the earth." [9]


  1. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Cercis siliquastrum- L". Plants For A Future. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  3. ^ Rowell, Raymond J. (1980). Ornamental Flowering Trees in Australia. Australia: AH & AW Reed Pty Ltd Reed. ISBN 0-589-50178-X. 
  4. ^ a b Rumsey, Fred. "Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree)". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  5. ^ Hickey, Michael; Clive King. 100 families of flowering plants. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  6. ^ http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=373
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Hatch, Laurence (2007). Cultivars of Woody Plants Volume I (A-G). Raleigh, North Carolina: TCR Press. Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberleys's plant-book (3 ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-521-82071-4. 
  9. ^ William Adamson, “Illustrations to Chapter 3,” in Genesis, The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic Commentary (New York; London; Toronto: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892), 72.