Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree)

The Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, is a beautiful small tree. With attractive and interesting flowers, foliage and form, it is an increasingly popular choice for gardens.

The generic name, Cercis, comes from the Greek ‘Kerkis’, a weaver’s shuttle, which Theophrastus likened the tree's flattened woody fruits to. Its specific name refers to the prominent seedpods - ‘siliqua’ in latin.

The origin of its common name is contentious. Alternative suggestions are:

  1. Judas is a corruption of Judean, as the tree was once common in the Judean hills.
  2. It was the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself.
  3. The flowers and pods hanging from the stem represent this act.

Uses

A Judas tree in Cambridge, UK

A Judas tree in Cambridge, UK © Andrew Dunn

The Judas tree has long been cultivated throughout its native range and beyond.

Introduced to the British Isles before 1600, it has become much commoner in our gardens in the last 20 years or so due to a combination of:

  • much wider commercial availability
  • milder winters
  • recognition of its suitability for the smaller urban garden

The wood is beautifully coloured and veined, hard, and makes a fine veneer.

  • Blossom of the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, growing directly from the trunk
    Appearance

    The Judas tree can grow to a height of 12m and reach 10m in diameter, often forming a low and irregular 1-sided dome. Read a detailed description of the tree's appearance, including the colour and shape of its leaves and bark, and the colour and timing of its flowers and fruit.

  • Cercis siliquastrum cv. Alba
    Taxonomy

    Explore the taxonomy of Cercis siliquastrum and its wider family. Find out about existing cultivars and which are more common or rare.

  • Flowers and seedpods of the Judas tree
    Distribution and ecology

    Learn where the Judas tree can be found around the world. Find out what conditions the plant can tolerate.

  • A Judas tree in bloom
    Cultivation

    Find out how the Judas tree is propagated and managed, and the preferred conditions for cultivation.

  • Psyllids on a Judas tree leaf
    Associated species and diseases

    Discover what fungus affects the Judas tree and what diseases and pests it is prone to.

Images

Close-up of Judas tree blossom

Close-up of blossom on the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum

© Andrew Dunn
Blossom of the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, growing directly on the trunk

The flowers of the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum, often grow directly from the trunk. This is known as cauliflory. 

A Judas tree in Cambridge, UK

A Judas tree in Cambridge, UK

© Andrew Dunn
Cercis siliquastrum cv. Alba

Alba, a white-flowered cultivar of the Judas tree, Cercis siliquastrum.

© Jean Tosti
Flowers and seedpods of the Judas tree

Flowers and seedpods of the Judas tree.

© Kurt Stueber
A Judas tree in bloom

A Judas tree in bloom

© David Monniaux
Psyllids on a Judas tree leaf

The Judas tree is susceptible to a number of pests, including the psyllid Cacopsylla pulchella.

© Luis Fernández García