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Title: Cercis  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cercideae, Cercidiphyllum, Nowruz in Afghanistan, Nowruz, Judas Tree
Collection: Cercideae
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


C. siliquastrum (Judas tree)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Caesalpinioideae
Tribe: Cercideae[1]
Genus: Cercis
Type species
Cercis siliquastrum

10–24; see text.

  • Siliquastrum Duhamel

Cercis ,[4] is a genus of about 10 species in the subfamily Caesalpinioideae of the pea family Fabaceae,[2] native to warm temperate regions. It contains small deciduous trees or large shrubs commonly known as redbuds.[5] They are characterised by simple, rounded to heart-shaped leaves and pinkish-red flowers borne in the early spring on bare leafless shoots, on both branches and trunk ("cauliflory"). Cercis is derived from the Greek word κερκις (kerkis) meaning "weaver's shuttle", which was applied by Theophrastus to C. siliquastrum.[6]

Cercis species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Mouse Moth (recorded on Eastern Redbud).The bark of C. chinensis has been used in Chinese medicine as an antiseptic.[7]


  • Species 1
  • Species names with uncertain taxonomic status 2
  • Wood 3
  • Gallery 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Cercis comprises the following species:[2][5][8][9]

Old World
New World
The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) often bears flowers directly on its trunk.

The Judas tree (Cercis siliquastrum) is a small tree to 10–15 m tall native to the south of Europe and southwest Asia, in Iberia, southern France, Italy, Greece and Asia Minor, which forms a handsome low tree with a flat spreading head. In early spring it is covered with a profusion of magenta pink flowers, which appear before the leaves. The flowers have an agreeably acidic bite, and are eaten in mixed salad or made into fritters. The tree frequently figured in the 16th and 17th century herbals.

This small, sparsely branched tree is said to be the one from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself after betraying Christ, but the name may derive from "Judea's tree", after the region encompassing Israel and Palestine where the tree is commonplace.

A smaller Eastern American woodland understory tree, the eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis, is common from southernmost Canada to Piedmont, Alabama and East Texas. It differs from C. siliquastrum in its pointed leaves and slightly smaller size (rarely over 12 m tall). The flowers are also used in salads and for making pickled relish, while the inner bark of twigs gives a mustard-yellow dye.

The related western redbud, Cercis occidentalis, ranges from California east to Utah primarily in foothill regions. Its leaves are more rounded at the tip than the relatively heart-shaped leaves of the eastern redbud. The tree often forms multi-trunked colonies that are covered in bright pink flowers in early spring (February - March). White-flowered variants are in cultivation. It buds only once a year.

The chain-flowered redbud (Cercis racemosa) from western China is unusual in the genus in having its flowers in pendulous 10 cm (4 in) racemes, as in a Laburnum, rather than short clusters.

Species names with uncertain taxonomic status

The status of the following species is unresolved:[9]

  • Cercis dilatata Greene
  • Cercis ellipsoidea Greene
  • Cercis florida Salisb.
  • Cercis funiushanensis S.Y.Wang & T.B.Chao
  • Cercis georgiana Greene
  • Cercis gigantea ined.—giant redbud (China)[2]
  • Cercis japonica Siebold ex Planch.
  • Cercis latissima Greene
  • Cercis nephrophylla Greene
  • Cercis nitida Greene
  • Cercis pumila W. Young
  • Cercis siliquosa St.-Lag.
  • Cercis texensis Sarg.
  • Cercis ×yaltirikii Ponert (hybrid)


The wood is medium weight, somewhat brittle, of light tan color with a noticeably large heartwood area of darker brown, tinged with red. The wood has attractive figuring and is used in wood turning, for making decorative items and in the production of wood veneer.



  1. ^ Sinou C, Forest F, Lewis GP, Bruneau A. (2009). region"trnFtrnL s.l. (Leguminosae): a phylogeny based on the plastid Bauhinia"The genus .  
  2. ^ a b c d L."Cercis"Genus: . Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2011-04-17. Retrieved 2011-09-28. 
  3. ^ Wunderlin RP. (2010). "Reorganization of the Cercideae (Fabaceae: Caesalpinioideae)" (PDF).  
  4. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  5. ^ a b "Cercis".  
  6. ^ Quattrocchi, Umberto (2000). CRC World Dictionary of Plant Names. Volume I: A-C. CRC Press. p. 485.  
  7. ^ redbud. (2008). In The Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved from
  8. ^ "Cercis"ILDIS LegumeWeb entry for . International Legume Database & Information Service. Cardiff School of Computer Science & Informatics. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Cercis"The Plant List entry for .  

Further reading

  • Davis, Charles C.; Peter W. Fritsch; Jianhua Li; Michael J. Donoghue (2002). "Phylogeny and Biogeography of Cercis (Fabaceae): Evidence from Nuclear Ribosomal ITS and Chloroplast ndhF Sequence Data" (PDF). Systematic Botany 27 (2): 289–302. 

External links

  • USDA PLANTS Profile
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