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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Judas Tree

The following is from the Ypsilantian of Thursday, MAy 31, 1888.

A beautiful and conspicuous object in many of our door yards for the past two weeks, for its ample dress of reddish purple flowers which precede the leaves, has been the Cercis Canadensis, or Judas tree, of which the popular name in this country is red bud. An old author say, "This is the tree whereon Judas did hang himself, and not on the elder tree, as it is said"--a piece of information which should give the tree an added interest. The wood of the Canadensis if fine grained and hard, and finely veined with green and black, very beautiful when polished; and the twigs make a nankeen dye.

The genus Cercis belongs to the order Leguminosae, a very large and important family of which the peas, beans, locusts and clovers are our most familiar representatives. There are about 500 genera and 7000 species, distributed in all parts of the world. They embrace such timber trees as the rosewood, laburnum with its olive green timbers; and produce such medicines and drugs as liquorice, senna, sweeet tamarind, gum Arabic, gum tragacanth, balam copavia and tolu, and such dyes as indigo, logwood, Brazil wood and reti sandal wood. The sensitive plant is among them, genus Minosa, from greek mimos, a buffoon, "because the leaves seem to sport with the hand that toches them." Some of the other species have sensitive leaves.

The pea has been so universally cultivated from time immemorial that its native country is unknown. The common bean is from the East Indies, the lima bean from India, and the scarlet pole bean from South America, which comes also the pea nut, with its singular habit of flowering in the air and then forcing the fruit into the soil to ripen. Very soon the locust trees, the most ornamental of all the species common to us, will perfume the whold country with their fragrance.

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