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Japanese flowering cherry varieties Rosaceae Prunus
Different from the fruit-bearing Cherry trees we are most familiar with, the ornamental cherries such as the Japanese Flowering Cherry and Cherry Plum trees are enjoyed mostly for their beautiful shades of pink or white blossoms. They are usually at their peak in late March and early April throughout the City.
No two cherry seasons are ever the same. Although the cherry trees flower every year, they may not always yield the same quantity of blooms as in previous years - this depends on the type of winter we have had.
Different species or cultivars come into bloom at different times and the very delicate, translucent petals fall after a relatively short span. This can be from about seven to fourteen days. As one species or cultivars fades, the next one bursts into flower.
The five petal single flowers open all at once on trees like the Prunus x yedoensis 'Akebono' yoshino while semi-double flowers with between 10 and 20 petals and double flowers that have from 25 to 50 petals open in stages.
Typically, semi-double and double flower cherry trees like Prunus Shirotae, Takasago, Ukon, Shogetsu and Shirofugen tend to keep their blossoms longer. The later the cherry, the later they age because of the warmer temperatures. If we do not have high winds the Shirofugen will bloom for a month.
The cherry varieties listed under Prunus serrulata are the Japanese garden cherries often referred to as sato-zakura or village cherries. Bred and cultivated in Japanese villages for centuries their parentage is now almost unknown. Each variety has its own unique quality.
Today many of the most commonly cultivated flowering cherries sold for garden use are budded or grafted, usually onto Prunus avium stocks. The bulges you see on the trees are where the grafting has been done. The bulge is actually an imperfection and is a problem because it reduces the life of the tree.
When considering Prunus cherry trees for your garden please be aware that Vancouver is zone 8 close to the water and can be zone 7 at some of the higher elevations. Confirm with your garden centre or nursery about your specific growing zone before purchasing a new tree. Also, keep in mind that the Japanese Flowering Cherries growing in our climate are not long-lived. With these cherries a 40 or 50 year old tree is talked about as being "really" old.
Vancouver has many different microclimates and in cold, rainy years the same species will not always be in bloom in all neighbourhoods at exactly the same time. But in sunny years you will find that the same species bloom at the same time in all neighbourhoods.
Select a tree to see description:
Mid-February to early March
Mid-March to mid-April
1 cm = ca. 2/5 of an inch
Cherry blossom resources
Upright, spreading deciduous tree, horizontally branched with single, dark pink blossoms fading to light pink or white hanging in small clusters. Petals are notched. Reddish brown bark. Can grow to 6.0 - 8.0 meters high and 9.0 meters wide.
Similar to Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea', the Whitcomb was introduced by David Whitcomb around 1925 in Washington State.
One of the most popular and widely planted street trees in Vancouver, Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' (also called 'Atropurpurea' and Purple-Leaved Plum) is a small deciduous tree producing single pale buds that open to paler pink, almost white flowers.
The light coppery colour leaves appear just as the flowers begin to drop their petals. The leaves will turn dark bronze purple in summer and purplish-red in the fall.
Often planted on the same street is the Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' which blooms approximately a week later. This tree has darker pink buds and flowers that bloom before the deep blackish-purple leaves appear. Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Can grow to 9.0 meters tall.
You can quickly identify a Plum tree from a Cherry tree because the Plums have a smoother bark and shinier, darker, finer twigs than the Cherry trees. The trunk of a Cherry tree is usually marked with very distinct shiny horizontal lines.
Graceful, open, spreading deciduous tree with masses of pink, semi-double flowers (12 - 15 petals) in large drooping clusters before the leaves. Deep rose pink buds open to blush-pink. Flowers to 4cm wide.
Prunus 'Accolade' is a hybrid cherry, a cross between Prunus subhirtella and Prunus sargentii introduced from Knap Hill nurseries in England in 1952.
Can grow to 6.0 meters high and wide.
Prunus 'Accolade' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Covered in delicate pink flowers there is nothing quite like a graceful Weeping Higan Cherry in full bloom in spring. The small dark single pink flowers cover the branches before the leaves emerge.
The Double Weeping Higan Cherry, Prunus pendula 'Pendula Rosea' with masses of dark, double pink flowers gives the appearance that fresh snow has fallen on the tree.
Also known as the Weeping Spring Cherry, this deciduous tree can grow 6.5 - 10.0 meters tall with a spread of 5.0 - 8.5 meters.
Prunus pendula 'Pendula Rosea' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Found in private gardens and at VanDusen Botanical Garden. VanDusen Botanical Garden has an excellent collection of Weeping Higans.
One of the most noticeable flowering trees in spring, this medium-sized deciduous tree with arching branches produces masses of soft-pink, single flowers with a very distinct star centre on bare branches and blooms a few days earlier than the other cultivars such as the pale pink 'Awanui' or the weeping form 'Shidare Yoshino' or 'Pendula'.
Some of the 5-petal 'Akebono' flowers have 1 extra twisted petal. The 'Akebono' is often described as having semi-double, soft-pink flowers.
When planted close together, the 'Akebono' tree in bloom is a little brighter in colour than the Yoshino Cherry. The 'Akebono' is similar in growth habit to the Yoshino Cherry listed below.
'Akebono' translates as "dawn" or "daybreak." The 'Akebono' pink flowers fade to white before the petals fall.
'Akebono' is a seedling of P. x yedoensis developed and named in 1920 at the W. B. Clarke & Co. Nursery in San Jose, California.
'Akebono' is the most widely planted flowering cherry in the coastal Pacific Northwest since it does extremely well in our maritime climate. Akebono is particularly noted for its resistance to the serious fungal disease brown rot, which afflicts many flowering cherries in the coastal Pacific Northwest.
When planted in small groups the spring flowers are quite stunning at peak bloom.
The 'Akebono' was listed as a great plant pick for 2006 in the Great plant picks booklet published by the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden.
This wide-spreading flat-topped tree with arching branches creates an almost weeping effect. A deciduous tree producing pale pink buds opening to almond-scented single very pale pink or nearly pure white 5-petal flowers 3.5cm wide in clusters of two to five. Flower has a very distinct star centre.
Flowers bloom before or as the new dark green leaves develop.
First introduced in Tokyo in 1872, it is also known as Tokyo Cherry. The correct name for this flowering Cherry is Somei-yoshino but has been exported under the name Yoshino Cherry since the early twentieth Century. This popular tree is sometimes classified a cross between Prunus subhirtella and Prunus speciosa but its parentage is unclear.
Many of the Yoshino Cherry trees planted around Vancouver are usually older than 25 years.
If the flowers have no distinct fragrance, it may be the Prunus x yedoensis 'Matsumura' Yoshino tree. There are thousands of these planted throughout Vancouver.
Can grow to a possible height and width of 9.0 meters.
Prunus x yedoensis 'Somei-Yoshino' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Prunus x yedoensis 'Somei-Yoshino' was listed as a 2007 great plant pick on the Great Plant Picks Web site published by the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden.
Umbrella-shaped with a flattened top, this small, spreading deciduous tree produces slightly fragrant, semi-double 5cm wide pure, snow-white blossoms covering widely spreading branches in hanging clusters. Mature trees show distinctly tiered branches. The flowers open from white buds with faint pink tinge.
The young leaves emerging at the same time as the flowers are pale green with a distinct fringe around the edges.
Compared to other cherries this tree has a long blooming period.
Also known as Prunus 'Mount Fuji' and Prunus serrulata 'Kojima.' Shirotae means "snowflake" or "snow white."
Can grow to 5 meters high and 10.0 - 12.0 meters wide.
Prunus 'Shirotae' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
One of the tallest flowering cherries, growing as high as 24 meters, it produces delicate light pink, single 5-petal flowers up to 4cm wide with deeper pink stamens and bronze-red foliage each spring. The bark is a shining polished brown.
The sargentii is one of the few that will not stand pollution.
Can grow to 3.0 - 5.0 meters wide at maturity.
Prunus sargentii 'Rancho' is an upright, vase-shaped tree sometimes described as being columnar. This habit is the shape of the younger tree, but broadens somewhat as the tree ages. The coppery bronze leaves open just as the flowers begin to fade.
In the late 1800s Professor Sargent of the Arnold Arboretum, among others, collected seeds from the mountain slopes of Japan. The Japanese name for this rather large deciduous tree means "great mountain cherry."
Prunus sargentii has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Small, compact, vase-shaped deciduous tree with gnarled limbs producing dark pink buds that open to pale pink semi-double flowers, becoming almost white when completely opened. The centre of the flower turns to dark purple as it ages.
The flowers, faintly fragrant are 3.5 - 4.0cm in diameter with 12 - 15 petals. Hanging in clusters of three to six flowers they appear to point sideways.
The young leaf sprouts, light-red to orange-bronze are mostly produced after the flowers are fully open or beginning to drop, making the tree appear leafless at the peak of flowering.
Takasago translates from Japanese to "good health and long life." There is some question as to whether this tree belongs to Prunus serrulata or of hybrid origin.
Philipp Franz von Siebold introduced the Takasago into Europe in the 1860s.
You may find Prunus Takasago still listed in collections and catalogues under the names Siebold's Cherry, Prunus serrulata caespitosa, Naden cherry or Musha-zakura.
Also known as Prunus 'Spire' and Prunus x hillieri 'Spire', this slender upright cone shape deciduous tree with shiny, copper-coloured bark produces a profusion of partially double small pale pink flowers with a darker pink calyx. The broad bronze leaves, soft to the touch when young unfurl at the same time as the flowers.
A cross between Prunus incisa and Prunus sargentii, the cultivar 'Spire' was introduced in 1956.
Can grow to 20.0 meters high and 3.0 meters wide.
Extremely rare in Vancouver.
Prunus 'Spire' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
The palest pink buds open to large, bowl-shaped, single pure white flowers up to 6cm wide set against young coppery-red leaves with fringed teeth on the edges opening at the same time. Almost no flowers have more than 5 petals.
Botanist Collingwood Ingram is credited with reintroducing this variety. Ingram found a tree in a garden in Sussex, England that had been sent long before from Japan. He was able to identify it from an 18th-century Japanese print as a variety long extinct in its native land.
Can grow to at least 8.0 meters high and 12.0 meters wide.
Prunus 'Taihaku' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Blooming from early to mid-April, this very large deciduous tree with broad spreading branches and a trunk chestnut brown, silvery and peeling with age is beautiful when its branches are laden with rows of pure white five petal flowers up to 2cm in diameter.
The fragrant flowers are arranged on stalks in clusters of 2 - 6. The emerging light green oval shaped leaves with a toothed edge turn to a darker green.
Avium is from the Latin word for bird. Prunus avium is also known as the Wild cherry, Mazzard or Gean cherry.
Can grow 20.0 - 25.0 meters high at maturity.
Prunus avium has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
The double form avium 'Plena' with its large rounded crown is even more beautiful than the single flower avium. Very double pure white ruffled flowers up to 4cm wide droop from every twig when in full bloom.
The avium 'Plena' typically blooms longer than the single flowered trees in bloom at the same time.
Also referred to as 'Multiplex', or 'Grandiflora' or Wild Cherry.
Can grow 20.0 - 25.0 meters high at maturity.
Prunus avium 'Plena' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Small but strong deciduous tree with a spreading crown and large bronze leaves, produces striking 5cm wide semi-double to double large pale creamy-yellow blossoms, green-tinged with pink center, opening from dark pink buds. Sometimes flowers will have a hint of pink on the petals. Flowers have 5 - 14 petals.
Ukon means "yellowish" in Japanese. Introduced to western gardeners in the early part of the 20th century.
Can grow to 8.0 meters high and 10.0 meters wide with age.
Prunus 'Ukon' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Visit: Ukon street tree locations
Opulent is the only word to describe the flowers on this umbrella-shaped deciduous tree. The 12mm long pointed dark pink buds with red stripes open to tightly clustered light pink flowers with light pink stripes. Each semi-double flower with 20-30 petals when completely opened is 4-5 cm in diameter. The petals look wrinkled and rumpled on their short flower stalks.
The young foliage light bronze-green is barely out when flowers in bloom.
Often confused with Prunus 'Temari' the Ito-kukuri is almost identical but with larger flowers.
Ito-kukuri means "bundled with thread" and the flowering branches look as if the flowers have been tied very closely together on the branches.
Can grow to 5.0 meters high and wide with age.
Extremely rare in Vancouver.
The name translates as 'The royal carriage returns' after a dispute arose as to whether the Cherry had single or double flowers. Hence the carriage returned to find that the tree bears both single and double light pink flowers.
In old plant catalogues Mikuruma-gaeshi was often referred to as Prunus serrulata 'Diversiflora', P. 'Kirigaya', P. 'Kirigayatsu', P. 'Kuruma-gaeshi', P. 'Mikurumakaisi', P. 'Yae-hitoe'.
In Japan Mikuruma-gaeshi is known as Prunus lannesiana 'Mikurumakaisi'.
Mature trees are typically broad shaped needing space to grow.
Extremely rare in Vancouver this elegant tree is worth seeing.
Often confused with the Kanzan, Pink Perfection is said to have slightly paler pink outer petals with some white inner petals. The exquisite double flowers on this deciduous tree open from red buds and are born on long drooping stalks.
The young, large leaves are bronze-green before turning dark green.
It is not uncommon for a Pink Perfection tree to have some long twig-like branches with no flowers or leaves on them.
Pink Perfection is a hybrid (P.'Shogetsu' x P. 'Kanzan') introduced in 1935 by the British nursery Waterer Sons and Crisp.
It has a rather wide-spreading habit, growing to 5.0 to 6.0 meters high by 5.0 to 6.0 meters across at maturity.
At West 39th Avenue and Laburnum Street there is one Pink Perfection and one Kanzan. When both are in full bloom at the same time, the Pink Perfection flowers look like a brighter or purer pink than the Kanzan flowers.
Prunus 'Pink Perfection' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
Stiffly vase-shaped when young, this medium-sized deciduous tree spreads out making the tree wider than it is tall at maturity. Opening from crimson buds, large, vivid purplish-pink double flowers 5cm wide hang in pendulous clusters of 3 to 5. Flowers have 30 - 50 petals.
The young, very large leaves are coppery-bronze before turning to dark green.
The original name 'Sekiyama,' is rarely used.
Kanzan means "bordering mountain." Both the 'Kwanzan' and 'Sekiyama' names refer to the same sacred mountain in China.
This tree can grow to 5.0 - 7.0 meters high and wide at maturity.
Prunus 'Kanzan' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
One of the last to bloom in Vancouver and truly breathtaking, this umbrella-shaped deciduous tree often with a flattened top produces shell pink buds that open to large semi-double pure snow-white or faintly pink flowers 5cm wide against young green leaves. The long-stalked clusters of hanging flowers with 22 - 25 petals are pleated and frilled when completely opened.
Flowers that open first usually have more petals. Longer blooming than most, the flowers fade to pale pink before scattering.
Shogetsu translates as "moonlight on the pine trees." Also referred to as 'Shimidsu', 'Shimidsu-sakura' and 'Okumiyaku.'
Can grow to 8.0 meters high and wide at maturity.
Prunus 'Shogetsu' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
The deep pink buds open pale pink, turning to spectacular double white flowers 5cm wide hanging in long drooping clusters accented by young bronzy foliage emerging at the same time. The flowers with 20 - 36 petals bloom for a week or more and finally fade to a pink-cerise colour, as the leaves turn green.
Shirofugen translates to "white god." Descriptions of Prunus 'Shirofugen' date back to the 15th century.
Shirofugen is also known as Prunus 'Fugenzo', Shiro-fugen cherry, and 'Albo-rosea'.
Can grow to 8.0 meters high and wide.
Prunus 'Shirofugen' has received the RHS Award of Garden Merit (H4) 1993. 1
1 RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society UK at http://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/Plant-trials-and-awards/Plant-awards is intended to serve as a general guide to growing conditions. The H4 rating means that the plant is hardy throughout the British Isles.
Kuitert, W. 1999. Japanese Flowering Cherries, Timber
Press, Portland, Oregon.
Wybe Kuitert's book is an excellent reference for learning about the natural and cultural history of Japan's flowering cherries accompanied by stunning photographs of the cherries in bloom. After reading this book I can certainly understand why Japanese flowering cherries have inspired gardeners for almost twelve centuries. Checkout your local library for a copy of this book since it is now out of print. View table of contents.
Straley, Gerald B. 1992. Trees of Vancouver : a guide to the
common and unusual trees of the city, University of British Columbia
Press, Vancouver, BC Canada.
This guide book has been the main reference for the creation of this guide to flowering cherries found throughout Vancouver.
Cherry information from the Royal Horticultural Society UK at http://www.rhs.org.uk
Great plant picks Pacific Northwest
Nitobe Memorial Garden
Online guide to plant disease control (Oregon State University (OSU)
Pacific Bulb Society - Hardiness Zone Maps from around the world
Royal Horticultural Society UK (RHS)
Vandusen Botanical Garden : Flowering Cherry Tree Map at VanDusen
Climate Change and Cherry Tree Blossom Festivals in Japan [9 pages] (PDF/Adobe
Acrobat format file)
Climate Change Observations in Botanic Gardens Around the Globe (2nd March 2007)
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Document updated 2011 November 23