Erguvan, also known as the Judas tree, has been an important symbol of Istanbul from the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Empire and Turkey.
Starting in the last days of April, you can have a chance to see the blooming trees with their pink, violet, purple colours on the both side of the Bosphorus, as they lighten the hearts of residents.
As the tree has such a big meaning for residents of Istanbul, a conference named “Colours and Flowers of Istanbul” organised at Marmara University to discuss how Istanbul can maintain its historical and cultural identity as developing in the direction of its vision, being a global city.
During the conference, Huseyin Emiroglu, the chairman of the Erguvan Istanbul Association, strongly offered that Erguvan should become the official symbol of Istanbul, adding whatever the Cherry Blossom (sakura) is to Japan, the Judas tree is the same for Istanbul.
— İlhan (@ilhtrm) 16 Aralık 2015
Erguvan, which is one of the native species of Istanbul flora, mostly range in Mediterranean areas. Its Latin name “cercis siliquastrum” is derived from Greek as a combination of two words “cercis” meaning tree and “siliquastrum” meaning fruit.
"Erguvan," the name given to the tree by Istanbulites is a Persian word describing the colour of the tree's flowers.
Forestry Minister, Veysel Eroglu, announced the year of 2012 as the year of Erguvan. In Istanbul, 49,605 Erguvan trees have been planted so far, as a part of a nine year project. The new goal for this year is to plant as many as 8,000 more Erguvan trees in the city.
Istanbul Mayor, Dr Kadir Topbas, also shares the same sympathy as Eroglu towards the Erguvan trees. This year, he ordered to plant 60,000 Erguvan trees alongside 12 million tulip bulbs. He aims to draw more tourists to Istanbul during the spring.
You know it’s spring in Istanbul when the Judas Tree’s in full stunning bloom. And summer when it ends. https://t.co/r2hgvwXQ8S
— Turkey.Home (@Turkey_Home) 27 Mayıs 2015
Istanbul is very rich in terms of endemic plants. Tulips, wisterias and acacias give the city’s unique landscape a novel touch, however the Erguvan tree is enshrined in the heart of Istanbulites as Emiroglu said "Of Istanbul the colour is Erguvan and the scent is Linden."
The tree has influenced deeply many religions, empires and states through history, becoming a significant tree for different civilisations.
Professor Hasan Dogruyol, in his article "Erguvan Uzerine" (About the Erguvan) says that for the Egyptians and Romans, the Erguvan represented nobility and it is also believed that Prophet Harun (Aaron) wore Erguvan coloured clothes of worship and Jesus also wore the same colour before the crucifixion.
Istanbul's Judas tree season.
Color of imperial Byzantium & Ottoman aesthetics. pic.twitter.com/RX4aYni4zA
— Bahadır Kaleağası (@Kaleagasi) 13 Nisan 2014
It is also believed that Sultan Tugrul and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent preferred to stay in Erguvan-coloured tents during battles.
Shamanists used Erguvan tree to recover from illnesses.
Ottomans used them as walking sticks and also dressed salads with the tree's flowers for their taste.
It also influenced deeply Ottoman Divan poetry which applied mostly symbolic expressions.
"Erguvan was the source of inspiration of Divan poetry and mainly mentions lovers' lips, cheeks and faces and also many other various and colourful connotations. It takes its mystical value from the colourful world of Divan poetry because of those characteristics," says Professor Sener Demirel in his academic study “Erguvan in Diwan Poetry.”