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Judas Tree (19)

judas treeAccording to legend, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus, hung himself from the Judas tree, after which, its white flowers turned red with shame.

Interestingly, fossil records have shown that this beautiful tree (Maltese: Sigra ta’ Ġuda, scientific name: Cercis siliquastrum) was actually once native to our Islands, before it was completely eradicated in ancient times. It was later reintroduced to the Islands for cultivation purposes and today it has become naturalised in areas such as Buskett.

The Judas tree, which is capable of growing to a height of 10 meters, is a deciduous tree meaning it sheds its leaves in winter as an adaptation for the cold season. Its foliage is heart shaped with a rounded or pointed tip. Spectacular are its bee-pollinated flowers which have a purplish-pink colour and are borne in clusters directly on the branches and trunk. This show of colour may be witnessed in early spring, just before or with the young leaves. From these flowers, flattened linear brown pods are formed which hang vertically. The pods are actually a simple dried fruit, which at maturity split up to release the seeds within.

The Judas Tree is considered to be a strictly protected tree under national legislation and one should not prune, fell or uproot this tree without previously obtaining the necessary permits from the Competent Authorities.