Farewell to the Tree of Love
|Our Judas Tree in flower (Claudia Kelsey)|
Standing on the eastern side of our drive, with the house as a backdrop, the Judas Tree Cercis siliquastrum bestowed a breathtaking performance each spring. From its bare and twisted twigs buds erupted into candyfloss-pink pea-like flowers. The blossoming tree drew admiration and from afar became a beacon, networking as it were, with other Judas Trees that had been planted beside the old houses, that like ours, had been small wineries (Lagares) on the hill which became thus named, the Sierra de los Lagares.
For the ten-days or so of the flowering period, this visual spectacle was also audible. Standing close to tree, with my eyes shut, I would be wholly enveloped by the warmth of the sound of thousands of honey bees and carpenter bees, feeding well into the spring evening on the nectar it gifted them. It was like an embrace of sheer life and vitality. As the flowers dropped and carpeted the ground below the tree, forming rosy drifts of petals, the leaf buds started to open, a succession of effort by this tree. Large, heart-shaped leaves now gave us a pool of shade - thus this tree continued to give.
|Judas Tree blossom (Martin Kelsey)|
Scops Owls were fond of calling from this tree and it was favoured by Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers which would quietly tap into a broken bough, often whilst I stood still close by. Great Spotted and Iberian Green Woodpeckers would sometimes fly from the tree as I passed. Two springs ago, I watched a Wryneck singing from the topmost branches.
The tree is native to the eastern Mediterrean and its English name is claimed to be derived from the legend that it was the tree from which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Before its rendezvous with betrayal, the legend claims that its flowers were white, only becoming the colour of flesh after his suicide. This link is reinforced by the fact, here in Extremadura at least, this dramatic episode of flowering, when a bare tree transforms in the matter of a few days, often coincides with Easter. Curiously the tree sheds its leaves at Christmas time.
More prosaically, the English name may simply have come from its French name L'Arbre de Judée, meaning Judea Tree, after the region of the Middle-East where it originates. But here our neighbours call this species Árbol del Amor, the Tree of Love because of the heart-shaped leaves. And that is how we felt about this wonderful individual which stood at the entrance of our home, perhaps for more than a century.
A few days ago we returned home after a couple of nights away at a meeting. Pulling into the drive something struck me as changed, but only when getting out of the car did I realise that our beloved Tree of Love was lying on its side, wrenched and uprooted by the wind. The following day a neighbour, Miguel helped me remove the branches, and in doing so we discovered signs of massive heart wood rot deep in its trunk. This tree, which had been such a singular feature of our lives here, had been slowly ailing.
|Our Judas Tree toppled by high winds (Martin Kelsey)|