2015-04-29 / Features

Cherry Blossom Varieties

BY ANAƉ PETITO

There are more than one hundred varieties of cherry trees in Japan, the majority of which are wild, and native to Japan’s forests. The more familiar tree types, such as those featured in Washington DC, and our local botanical gardens, are examples of cherry trees cultivated by people for decorative use in gardens and parks.

The majority of cherry blossom trees bear blossoms consisting of five petals, while others consist of 10-20 or more. Cherry blossom trees possessing more than five petals are known as yaezakura, while the five-petal variety is better known as Somei Yoshino. Most species produce white and light pink blossoms, while others are dark pink, yellow, or green. Some will blossom as white and change to pink over the course of a few days. White blossoms are known as Shogetsu, pink as Kanzan, and yellow as Ukon.

Most cherry trees bloom in spring while extreme species appear in late autumn and winter. Yaezakura (blossoms of more than five petals) are usually the last of cherry trees to open their blossoms, blooming two to four weeks after the five-petaled blossoms. Cherry trees can be found in different shapes such as triangular, columnar, v-shape, weeping, and flat-topped, amongst others. The Weeping Cherry, also known as Shidarezakura is among the most common of cherry trees in Japan.

The earliest of cherry trees to bloom include Kanzakura, Kawazuzakura, and Kanhizakura. The Kanhizakura tree is a vibrant dark pink variety whose petals are bell-shaped. It typically blooms as early as January and February in its native area of Taiwan and Okinawa, while in parts of Tokyo it blooms in mid-March.

The Jugatsuzakura, or October Cherry, is a variety that blooms in autumn and winter. The petals are sparse and the flower itself is small. For early blooming trees, the fresh leaves appear after the flower’s full bloom, while later blooming trees display fresh leaves prior to the blossoms. The color of fresh leaves shows different colors from green, coppery brown, or a color in between.

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