The sad tale of the beautiful Judas Tree

Over the years we have visited Provence in just about every month, but until we bought the house we hadn’t visited in April, which to be honest looking back on it now, was rather an oversight.

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With quiet roads and often beautiful weather April is a great time to visit Provence

In April the countryside simply explodes with colour as the wild flowers start to bloom, bringing the landscape back to life after the cold winter months. They seem to explode overnight along with the Cherry blossom, which turns the bare orchards into snow-drifts of petals…

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The stunning cherry blossom near Apt

The orchids appear in the verges, along with other delights including perfect miniature daffodils, not much bigger than a thumb-nail….

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No bigger than a thumb-nail, perfect daffodils

And beautiful low-growing purple irises, not the miniature dainty version I have seen before, but simply larger irises that appear to have been through the ‘Honey I shrunk the kids’ machine…..

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Tiny flag irises

But the sight that brings me almost to a standstill is that of the Judas trees coming into flower. We first saw these when we drove to visit the house before we went to the ‘Notaire’ to sign the final contract and wondered what they were, creating a shocking pink highlight amongst the fresh green of emerging leaves.

I had never seen anything like it – with this vivid colour creating a wonderful show on the hills and alongside the roads around Apt. I had no idea what they were and contacted a friend with a photo just to ask and the reply came back – The Judas Tree.

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Judas trees along the side of the Veloroute du Calavon near Apt

I now look for the first signs of the colour starting to emerge from the buds in early April as a real sign that Spring is on its way, but like the Legend of Roussillon The Legend of Roussillon – a tale of illicit love and a tragic end! there is a rather gruesome tale behind its name.

The tree is actually an Eastern Redbud, but the legend explains that it hasn’t always been that way. The tree was always renowned for being a beautiful tree found in Judea and other parts of the Middle East and carried swathes of white flowers every Spring. This took a dramatic change though when Judas Iscariot chose it as the tree to hang himself from after betraying Jesus to the soldiers of Caiaphas. It is said that the tree couldn’t deal with the shame of what had happened and that following Judas’ suicide the tree no longer bloomed with white flowers, but instead blushed turning the flowers the vivid pink that we see now.

Shocking pink against a blue sky – no filter needed!

Of course this is just one of the legends, another is that the flowers appear to resemble a hanging man below the branches (which is slightly more gruesome), but it is most likely that it has just resulted from a redaction in the term ‘Judea’s tree’

The trees add a wonderful colour to the early spring hedgerows

Whatever the real story behind it, this tree lights up my Spring, is one of the first shocks of colour to brighten the Provencal landscape and will forever remind me of the day we finally realised our dream of owning a little bit of Provence……

The blushing trees

…… it is a real herald that Summer is on its way & the swallows will soon be here too, with the long sultry days, and all the joys that come with it…….

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