Sunday, 31 March 2013

Nice tree, shame about the name

About this time of year here on Skopelos you suddenly start seeing large dashes of deep pink dotted around. These splashes of colour are trees and they crop up in people's gardens, at the side of the road, away up on a hill - they're everywhere. You really can't miss them, they are most striking. Here's a picture of one:
This beauty is Cercis Siliquastrum, also known as the Judas tree. It is called this because it is claimed that Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver, hanged himself from such a tree. All quite appropriate in a way seeing as we are in and around Easter. This depends on which church's calendar you go by, here in Greece the Orthodox Easter is not until May 5, but the trees are ahead of the game and showing themselves off in all their glory.

Not that this posting set out to have a religious theme, but it has often struck me that Judas Iscariot gets a bit of a bad rep, as I believe they say in some TV police shows. After all, if he had not become a paid informer, the Romans would not have arrested Jesus, he wouldn't have been crucified, then there would have been no resurrection and the central basis of the entire Christian religion would have never got off the ground (or out of the ground?).

Anyway, I digress, and I DO love a digression, and let's face it the whole question of which tree Judas Iscariot might have used is, I am sure, always going to be open to debate. In any case, there are other theories about why the tree is commonly known as the Judas tree. Still on the suicide theme, one of these is that the seedpods of the tree can dangle in a way reminiscent of Judas's suicide....mmm, nice. Another is that in French, the trees are called Arbre de Judée meaning tree of Judea where they used to be common.

The official name, given by Linnaeus back in the 18th century, derives from the Greek word for the weaver's shuttle and the Latin word for pod, but evidently calling the tree the Shuttle Pod tree wasn't good enough for  Linnaeus.

So, does the name really matter? Broadly speaking no, they are lovely trees which go on to develop attractive foliage and for ease of identification as much as anything I shall continue to call them Judas trees. But anyone who thinks "it's just a word" might like to ponder how many Judases they have met - that is as in people called Judas rather than treacherous types. You see, I told you the name carried weight.

The Judas tree can go by another name, which is the Love tree, but in all honesty it's just not as memorable, is it? So Judas tree it shall remain and don't let that name put you off, they are stunning.


  1. Judas got a bad rap - lol - nice blog Mark have added to blogroll thingy....


  2. This really interested me Mark because I remember that tree from when I lived on Greece - going to become a regular reader of your blog




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