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"Judas tree"

Making It Grow Radio Minute

Redbud, Cercis canadenis, which has purple pea-like flowers, is sometimes called Judas tree. This is a head scratcher until you find out that among the different Cercis species is one, Cercis siliquastrum that grows in the Mediterranean area of Europe. Folklore gives the story that in despair for betraying Christ, Judas Iscariot hung himself from this tree, The tale continues with the tree itself, feeling shame, going from being tall and straight with white flowers to growing in a zig-zag branching pattern useless for timber and with pink/purple flowers. When people from the the Mediterranean areas of Europe came to North America and saw native redbuds, they called them by the familiar name of Judas tree. Stories and folklore are fascinating but our scientific names, sometimes hard to pronounce, are spot on for proper identification.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.