Judas-Tree - Encyclopedia

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JUDAS-TREE, the Cercis siliquastrum of botanists, belonging to the section Caesalpineae of the natural order Leguminosae. It is a native of the south of France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, and forms a handsome low tree with a flat spreading head. In Spring it is covered with a profusion of purplishpink flowers, which appear before the leaves. The flowers have an agreeable acid taste, and are eaten mixed with salad or made into fritters. The tree was frequently figured by the older herbalists. One woodcut by Castor Durante has the figure of Judas Iscariot suspended from one of the branches, illustrating the popular tradition regarding this tree. A second species, C. canadensis, is common in North America from Canada to Alabama and eastern Texas, and differs from the European species in its smaller size and pointed leaves. The flowers are also used in salads and for making pickles, while the branches are used to dye wool a nankeen colour.

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