Cherry – Prunus serrulata

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms
Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”

-Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)


This tree is the epitome of spring. Every year spring is celebrated through the Cherry Festival in Washington, D.C. It is one of the most planted ornamental trees in the world. It is ideal for planting near sidewalks or near patios for a smaller shade tree. This tree was introduced to America in 1902.

‘In 1885 travel writer and photographer Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore of the U.S. started working with the Japanese government to arrange for cherry trees to be planted along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. After years of negotiations the people of Tokyo donated 3,000 cherry trees to the people of Washington. On March 27, 1912, Helen Taft (wife of the U.S. president) and Viscountess Chinda (wife of the Japanese Ambassador) planted the first two cherry trees. Approximately 150 of the original 1912 trees, including the first two planted, are still alive.’

In Japan there is a legend that each spring a fairy maiden hovers low in the warm sky, wakening the sleeping Cherry trees to life with her delicate breath. This tree, along with its cousin the “Yoshino” Cherry tree, is responsible for the spectacular pink color show each spring in Washington, D.C

The fruit of this tree is small, with very little flesh, but with a large seed. It causes clothing, sidewalks, and patios to become stained when they fall. A green dye can be obtained from the leaves. A dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.

The Kwanzan Cherry Has little or no food (they are edible, but do not taste very good, best left for the birds) uses, and absolutely nothing noted for medical uses.

Kanzan is an old Japanese poetic word meaning “bordering mountain”. The word conjured an image of a “native land or village of one’s birth that lay in a valley.” It is unclear why this word was applied to a cherry. ‘Kanzan’ is also called ‘Sekiyama’ or ‘Sekizan.’ ‘Kwanzan’ is believed by some to be an obsolete spelling of ‘Kanzan’.


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