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Judas tree
Cercis siliquastrum

Cercis siliquastrum commonly known in the English speaking countries as Judas tree, is a low deciduous tree originated from southern Europe and western Asia. In the eastern Mediterranean, the species has spread in a wide range stretching east in Europe to Bulgaria and Turkey. The species can be found also in West Asia, including Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The natural population of the tree is extended by cultivation.

In Bulgaria Cercis siliquastrum can be seen along the Black Sea coast, in northeastern Bulgaria and Eastern Stara Planina from 0 to 500 meters above sea level. As a decorative plant it grows in yards and gardens throughout the country. In the Sea Garden of Burgas this tree occurs as one of the earliest flowering trees. It blooms in April-May before the leaves come out, which gives a maximum decorative effect. Interestingly, its bright pink flowers are collected in bundles directly on last year's branches or on even older. The flowers may appear even on the trunk of the tree. The development of flowers directly on the trunk and older branches is called Cauliflory. In leafing the tree forms spherical crown with rounded - kidney-like leaves. Like other members of the Fabaceae family (Fabaceae), the Judas tree develops dry fruits - flat pods that hang vertically grouped in several tuft on the very cortex. The bark of the trunk and branches is almost black, heavily cracked.

The origin of the common name for this species - Judas tree, is very controversial. According to many sources this is the tree on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself after he betrayed Jesus Christ. Proponents of this argument believe that the hanging from the stem flowers and pods depict this particular act. On the other hand the name of Judas tree can have geographical origin in relation to prevalence of the species in the Judaean Mountains.

On the territory of Bulgaria Cercis siliquastrum is used as a decorative and honey plant. It is light demanding deciduous tree reaching a height of about 10 meters. At young age, however, it can be found as a shrub with a height of 4-5 m. The species prefers sunny habitats with south wind. The tree suffers from late spring frosts but is easily restored. At early age the plant is sensitive to cold. It may tolerate low temperatures to -20C, but at higher temperature forms beautiful crown.

Author: Bozhana Ribarova
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