MARCH: Judas Tree - Kelil HaHoresh - כליל החורש

Month: March

Common name: Judas Tree

Scientific name: Cercis siliquastrum

Hebrew name: kelil hahoresh

Family: Caesalpiniaceae

Habitat and Distribution: hilly areas in Mediterranean woodlands and forests in northern and central Israel and on Mt. Hermon

Flowering months: March-May and October-November
Judas tree flowering in Israel. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Judas tree flowering in Israel. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Judas trees in Israel

One of Israel’s most beautiful trees in spring is undoubtedly the Judas tree in full bloom. Its pink flowers can be seen from afar among the surrounding green foliage, when it is one of the first trees to bloom. Judas trees can also be commonly found in gardens – it is one of the most successful cases of “domestication” in this region – a wild species that is now cultivated and beautifies gardens all over Israel.

Flowering time

The Judas tree is a deciduous tree – it sheds its leaves before winter – and it blooms twice a year in Israel. The first time is before its leaves grow back in spring, and then its reddish-pink flowers can be seen from afar. The second time is in autumn before it sheds its leaves. This time the tree has fewer flowers and they are hidden by its foliage and is much less conspicuous.

Food and Medicine

The flowers of the Judas tree are rich in nectar that attracts many insects, which serve as pollinators. The sweet flowers are used by the Arabs and Druze that live in northern Israel as a condiment.

Many parts of the Judas tree are used in traditional medicine for treating various ailments such as eye inflammations, to treat fungal infections and more.

Text and Tradition

The Judas tree plays a prominent role in Christian tradition. After Judas betrayed Jesus to the Romans he was filled with remorse and hung himself from a tree. The tree originally had white flowers that turned red with shame. The real source of the name is probably from its French name 'Arbre de Judée' meaning tree of Judea – where the Judas tree grows.