Forest 31 - Mediterranean Red Bud


Cercis siliquastrum

Cercis-siliquastrum tree. Photo not from the Arboretum Mediterranean red bud flowers in Forest 31. Photo by L. Muldoon

Other common names

Judas tree, European red bud.

Origin of the species name

Cercis means weaver's shuttle and refers to the shape of the fruit; siliquastrum is derived from the Latin word meaning pod.

Family

Fabaceae

Date planted

August 2008

Lifespan

Mediterranean red buds can live up to 40 years.

Leaves of Cercis siliquastrum. Photo not from the Arboretum

General description 

This is a small deciduous tree having a grey bark with numerous fine fissures. The leaves are heart-shaped with a blunt apex and appear shortly after the first flowers emerge. The deep pink flowers are produced on year-old or older growth, including the trunk, in late spring. The tree produces long flat, bright red pods that hang vertically. Height 12m Spread 10m.

Natural distribution and habitat

It is native to the Middle East and southern Europe where it grows in woods on stony arid slopes along the banks of rivers, mainly in calcareous soils.

Conservation status

It is not considered to be a threatened species in the wild.

Planting pattern

Planted in a series of large concentric circles around a rocky outcrop near the Events Terrace. Elsewhere the pattern is random as it flows into a regular square grid at the edges.

Uses

There is a longstanding 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 a region where the tree occurs. The wood is very hard, has a beautiful grain, and is used for veneers as it polishes well. The flowers have a sweetish-acid taste, and are added to salads. The flower buds themselves are pickled and used as a condiment.