Cherry Blossom Tree Facts You Should Know
One of the earliest harbingers of spring is the cherry blossom tree, which bursts into pink and white clouds of blooms in March and April. They're celebrated at cherry blossom festivals around the world when people flock to the grasses beneath their branches to marvel at the frothing blooms. If you'd like to learn more about these beautiful trees, read on. Study up on some cherry blossom facts before the next spring bloom. Plus, find some tree-related trivia to test your knowledge about these blossoming signs of warm weather to come.
The Blooming Season
Cherry blossom season lasts for about a month every spring and is always dependent on the weather. Early March to early April is generally a good rule of thumb when you're looking at the calendar and hoping to see blooms. Most cherry blossom trees bloom for one to two weeks during the season. The further south you go, the earlier in the season the trees will bloom. When blooming, cherry blossoms make for easy and stunning flower arrangements that can last quite a long time.
About Cherry Blossom Trees
Most ornamental cherry trees are bred more for the lovely blossoms than for the edible fruit. The strictly ornamental genus of cherry trees is known as Prunus. These trees still produce fruit in the summer months, but it's usually so sour that only animals eat it. Cherry trees that produce edible fruits are in the genus Rosaceae, but most of them are too difficult to grow in the South. That's because they need cool temperatures to thrive.
Contrary to popular belief, most cherry blossoms do have a light fragrance. They grow quickly, but they don't last very long. Their life spans are usually from 15 to 25 years long, but some, like black cherry trees, can live much longer. Although their looks are delicate, you can actually grow them for yourself, assuming that you place them in a location with full sun and well-drained soil.
Cherry blossoms bloom in several shades. Many are light pink, while others have darker pink flowers or white flowers. Some have yellow-green or white-green blooms that turn pink as they age.
Varieties in Bloom
There are over 200 different varieties of these beautiful trees. The Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is the selection that surrounds the Washington Tidal Basin and has a whole festival dedicated to it. It can grow up to 35 feet tall. The Weeping cherry (P. x subhirtella) can have pink or white flowers and come in a variety of sizes. The branches spill downward, like a weeping willow tree or water coming from a fountain.
The 'Okame' cherry (P. 'Okame') produces deep pink blossoms and grows to 20 feet tall with branches stretching up in a traditional, rounded tree form. It can be an early bloomer and sometimes blossom as early as Valentine's Day in the lower South. The 'Kwanzan' cherry (P. serrulata 'Kwanzan') is a vigorous grower with blooms that look like carnations. It's usually a late bloomer that flowers in mid-to-late spring and can reach heights of up to 30 feet tall.
Celebrate Blossoms in Washington, D.C.
Some of the most recognizable cherry blossoms in the United States are the ones that surround national monuments in Washington. The cherry blossom is the unofficial national flower of Japan, and in 1912, the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, gave the United States 3,000 cherry trees to plant around the Tidal Basin in Washington to celebrate the friendship between the cities and countries. In return, the United States gifted Japan flowering dogwoods in 1915. First Lady Helen Herron Taft planted the first cherry blossom tree along the Potomac in 1912.
Because of the trees planted around Washington, it has become a hub for blooming cherry blossoms. The National Cherry Blossom Festival is dependent on when the trees bloom each year. There is an official website dedicated to predicting the peak cherry blossom bloom time each spring. Peak bloom is typically around April 4 in Washington.
If you visit the cherry blossoms in Washington, don't even think of breaking off a branch. According to The Washingtonian, "Breaking off blossoms and branches is considered vandalism of federal property and can land you a citation or even get you arrested, though a Metropolitan Police spokesperson says officers enforce the law with 'an incredible amount of discretion,' mostly issuing warnings and small fines."
Cherry Blossom Trivia
George Washington never actually chopped down a cherry tree. According to Mount Vernon, that was a myth created by one of Washington's early biographers, Mason Locke Weems.
Cherry blossom trees are known as "sakura" in Japan, and there, the blooms are symbols of renewal and hope. Picnicking beneath the trees is a longstanding Japanese tradition, which is known as "hanami."
Cherry blossoms aren't native to the United States, but they can be found in many cities around the country. Macon, a Georgia city located in the middle of the state, is known for its cherry blossom trees (350,000 Yoshino cherry blossom trees and counting!) and has the moniker "The Cherry Blossom Capital of the World." Macon hosts the International Cherry Blossom Festival every season called the "pinkest party on earth."
For more information on cherry blossoms and tips on growing your own, check out Growing Your Own Cherry Blossoms.