Judas trees, called erguvan in Turkish, are a symbol of Istanbul. When they flower in late March and throughout April the slopes on either side of the Bhosphorus are a sight to behold. The flowers come before the leaves, displaying their strikingly deep pink color profusely.
I was born in Istanbul but I didn’t come to live there until 1969, the year I started university. In those days urban development had not yet engulfed the natural environment. The slopes of the Bosphorus Strait were green and mostly untouched. I fell in love with what I saw and to this day I try to match every other place I visit or live in to that beauty entrenched in my memory.
Each year the blossoming of the Judas trees is noted by Istanbulites.
Judas tree or Cercis siliquastrum of the family Fabaceae is a small deciduous tree from Southern Europe and Western Asia. It grows up to 12 meters in height and 10 meters in width.
In 1753 Linnaeus used the name 'siliquastrum' derived from the Latin word 'siliqua' meaning pod to describe this tree. The genus name 'cercis' comes from the Greek word 'kerkis' meaning shuttle. The long, woody seedpods that hang vertically were likened to the tool used by weavers.
The origin of the common name is not certain. One explanation is that the name Judas is a corruption of the word Judean meaning the land of the ancient Judah tribe where the trees used to grow.
The flowers are produced on year-old or older growth, including the trunk which is called cauliflory. They are hermaphrodite and bees pollinate them. They are edible.
The heart shaped leaves appear shortly after the first flowers.