ASK THE HORT AGENT
Question What are these trees which have pinkish blooms around Easter?
Answer There are two trees which have links to Easter. Everybody knows the legend about the dogwood, Cornus florida. In the United States, it is widely believed to be the tree used to make the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Since there weren’t any dogwoods in the Middle-East during the time of Jesus, it most likely was not the wood of the cross. The legend continues in the US because the timing and shape of dogwood blooms coincide with Easter. Dogwood blooms are typically white, but there are varieties which are pink.
There is another tree which has ties to the Easter story. It is Cercis siliquastrum. This tree is often called the “Judas tree.” It blooms a pinkish purple around the time of Easter. Jesus was supposedly betrayed to the Romans by one of his disciples – Judas Iscariot. According to the Bible, Judas took the news pretty hard, and hanged himself. The horticulture legend associated with this event says Judas used a Cercis siliquastrum to string himself up. The bible doesn’t record the specific name of the tree used by Judas. Like the dogwood, it blooms during Easter. It is certainly easier to point out the woody players in these events if they are bringing attention to themselves at the time the stories are being repeated.
The Judas tree may have gotten its name by accident. The French have long called them “Arbre de Judée.” This means tree of Judea and simply refers to the Judean region where the tree grows. It is possible the French name was simply corrupted over time and translations.
In the United States (where we never lose things in translation), we simply refer to all trees in the Cercis genus as “redbuds.” Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud) is native to south eastern United States. Cercis canadensis and Cercis chinensis are relatively short lived trees (about 20 years). Their flowers are high in vitamin C and tasty in salads.
For more info about redbuds, visit http://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/hgic1021.htm If you have any questions, then call 910-893-7533 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
In eastern North Carolina, redbuds and dogwoods have an additional usage. Herrings run (a fish that comes to fresh water to spawn) when the dogwoods are in bloom. Redbuds mark the beginning of speckle perch (crappe) and bass spawning season. These trees have an entwining lore of both fishermen and fishers of men.
Gary L. Pierce
Horticulture Extension Agent