A deciduous tree, usually of low, bushy habit, and below 25 ft in height, but occasionally forming a distinct trunk and reaching from 30 to 40 ft high; branchlets glabrous. Leaves roundish, with a heart-shaped base, sometimes pointed, but usually broad and rounded at the apex; from 21⁄2 to 4 in. across, somewhat less in length; they are quite glabrous, and of a well-marked glaucous green. Flowers produced in clusters from the joints of the old wood (even on the trunk of old trees), each flower on a slender stalk about 3⁄4 in. long; they are bright purplish rose, and 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 in long. Pod 3 to 5 in. long, 5⁄8 in. wide, flat, thin, red, eight- to twelve-seeded, remaining on the plants throughout the winter. Bot. Mag., t. 1138.
Native of the East Mediterranean region and the Near East, probably not found in a wild state west of Dalmatia and Istria; known and cultivated in England for more than three hundred years. In Italy it is the most delightful tree flowering in April and May; with us, flowering a few weeks later, it is also one of the most beautiful and picturesque trees that can be found in gardens. It flowers in the leafless state, and the profusion of blossom gives at a distance the effect of a rosy-purple mist. A sun-loving tree, it is better suited for the south of England than the north. Nowhere does it thrive better than in the gardens of Cambridge. It should only be propagated from seeds which, although they do not come to perfection regularly in this country, can be easily and cheaply purchased. The popular name of ‘Judas-tree’ is derived from the legend that this was the tree upon which Judas went out and hanged himself after the great Betrayal. The largest tree at Kew was 40 ft high, with a trunk 4 ft 9 in. in girth. The flowers of the Judas-tree have a sweetish, acid taste, and are used as an ingredient in salads. They open in May.
The tree varies in the depth of shade of the flowers; Miller knew a form with flesh-coloured flowers. One with deeply coloured flowers was given the F.C.C. in 1944 when shown from Bodnant; the original tree there was planted in 1876 and is about 30 ft high. In f. alba (West.) Rehd., the flowers are white.