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Redbuds, dogwoods form beautiful connection with Easter

April 14, 2019

So begins the holiest week of the year for Christians everywhere.

And for everyone in this region, it’s the time to marvel at the redbud trees and dogwood trees.

The eastern redbud typically grows 20–30 feet tall. It generally has a short, often twisted trunk and spreading branches. The bark is dark in color, smooth, later scaly with ridges somewhat apparent, sometimes with maroon patches.

The twigs are slender and zigzag, nearly black in color. The leaves are alternate, simple and heart-shaped.

But this time of the year, it is the tiny red blooms that make the trees spectacular.

Look almost anywhere in Huntington and vicinity, and you’ll see redbud trees, also known as Judas trees.

Dogwood trees in the region are not in full bloom, but many of them will be in a week when Christians celebrate Easter.

Dogwoods, like the Judas trees, never grow large. In fact in some locations, it is considered a shrub.

One of the most common species, and the one about which is common in this region, is the flowering dogwood.

The state tree of Virginia, the flowering dogwood has white to light yellow flowers that offer a mass of magnificent blooms in spring.

Christians have created legends about both trees since they tend to be the showiest around Easter time.

There is a reason the redbud is known as the Judas tree. Legend says that, before the crucifixion of Christ, the redbud was tall and strong like a white oak. But, the legend continues, it was the tree on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself when he realized what he has done to cause Jesus’ death on a cross.

Forever after, the tree was short and spindly, unable to support the body of anyone who desired to commit suicide. And the blood red blooms at Easter was to be a yearly reminder of what Judas did.

The legend of the dogwood tree is similar. Before that infamous death, the dogwood was a tall, straight, strong tree. But, says the legend, because it was so strong, the Romans made crosses from it, including the one on which Jesus was crucified.

After that horror, the dog After that horror, the dogwood became a small tree unable to be used to make crosses. And at Easter time ever since, the dogwood produces four-lobed white flowers with what look like blood stains on the tip of each petal representing the blood stains on Jesus’ hands and feet from being nailed to the cross.

In the center of the dogwood bloom is a small group of developing seeds which represents the “crown of thorns.”

None of this is mentioned in the Bible, which makes them legends not verified by the holy book.

My mama and my favorite aunt told these legends to me when I was a child. They didn’t call the redbud a Judas tree. The first person I knew to call them Judas trees was the late Jesse Stuart of Greenup County.

What do you call them?

Legends are a way of explaining nature in supernatural ways. We humans like that way of coming to grips with the unexplainable and even the magical.

So, enjoy the Judas trees and the dogwoods this coming week. Their blooms will too soon be gone.

And to Christians, a happy and blessed Easter.

Dave Peyton is on Facebook. His email address is davepeyton@comcast.net.