Japanese Flowering Cherry

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
There are additional prunus species: which includes the fruits plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines,
Every morning for the past year, I have been greeted by this tree. It sits in my line of sight as I stare out at the busy street of Edgewood Avenue in New Haven, CT. The tree has company, as edge wood is lined with various tree species--the tree also sits across from Rainbow Park, a garden with even more diversity in plants within its black iron gates. From thin dark branches resembling haunted trees that should be in a Disney movie, it now stands vibrant--signaling the verge of new colors and a new season in the Elm city.
Julian Johnson
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
The tree shape converges between being irregular as well as spreading. Its branches, while they spread out in similar manner as the spreading shape, has an irregular trunk that curves/leans significantly to one side.
Date of tree entry: 
7.30 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.43 m

The base of the tree. Also details the bark present on the tree. It does not resemble brown but rather a dark grey, black color. The bark is rough and overall not very smooth in any part of the tree. In addition, there appears to be a patch of red and white coloring on the bark. I assume that this may be due to external factors (paining on the tree, an object coming into contact with it, etc.) rather than it being intrinsic to the tree species. Various plant species surround the base of the tree as well.
Twigs & branches
The branches are much thinner and of higher quantity compared to other trees. The phlethora of branches also allows for multiple sites for the growth of the various foliage within the tree.
The foliage within the tree, especially at these still early stages of blooming are quite interesting. We see vibrant orange-burgundy leaves compounded with pink flowers that are beginning to bloom.
Reproductive Structures
In order for these seeds to reproduce, they use a pollination syndrome. Specifically, they employ pollinating vectors that interact with the pistil of the plant in order to then spread across a given region and produce offspring.
At first glance, especially when looking at early blooming, I believed that this tree bore fruit, such as cherries and or plums. However, even though its name may signal this, fruit is not present on the tree.
  • Early spring bloom of tree
  • Full shot of tree: early spring bloom
  • Enhanced view of whorls
  • Moss growing on tree (late February)
  • Winter snapshot of tree
Natural range of distribution: 
While there are a variety of cherry blossoms, one of the most common is the Japanese Flowering Cherry, or the Yoshino Cherry tree. However, it is important to note that no actual cherries are bore from these trees. While originating in Eastern Asia (Japan), thise trees are found in Australia, Canada, Turkey, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, India, and of course the United States. Japanese flowering cherry trees in the United States are found most commonly in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8. This translates to the Northeast, midwest, and southeast regions of the United States. Although, you can also find a large concentration of these trees in California. They thrive in subtropical climates in middle altitudes with ample exposure to sunlight. Although ample sun exposure, dry climates or areas with high frequency of droughts are not great for these trees. There are a variety of soil types that can maintain this tree: sandy, clay, loamy, etc all support the growth of the Japanese Flowering Cherry. A caveat is that whatever soil It is in, there is drainage: where water moves across and out of soil by way of gravity. These trees can reach 40-50 feet. Their growth rate is 2-4 feet per year.
Origin, history, and uses: 

Important Note: There was careful analysis done to determine whether the tree of interest was either in the prunus or malus genus. However, after reviewing databases such as the Yale School of the Environment’s Street Tree Inventory Map as well as third party applications such as “INaturalist.”

Origin & History of Prenus Serrulata: 

The history of the Japanese Flowering Cherry starts with one word: hanami. Its literal translation means “flower viewing.” Specifically, in Japanese culture, hanami refers to the viewing of the blossoming of the sakura (cherry) ume (trees). This tradition roots back to the 8th. Parties were even documented to be held by 16th century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi to witness the blooming of these trees. The practice towards the 16th -18th century was a celebration for feudal lords within Japan, along with their followers. Today, it is celebrated amongst ordinary Japanese citizenry and citizens across the world–even here in the United States with the annual festival that occurs in Washington D.C. The meaning of these trees has often centered around community and how short, beautfiul, and delicate life is–as the petals on these trees drop soon after blossoming. 

While the first Japanese flowering tree was planted in Washington D.C. as a gift to the U.S. from Japan in 1912, there were a series of events that led to a now everlasting bond between these two countries. If it were not for world traveler Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore traveling to Japan in 1885 and returning from her visit urging them to be planted, we may not have seen a co-appreciation of this plant. It would not be until 1906 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would import nearly 75 trees from Japan for experimentation. A series of studies and involvement of the Taft Administration led to Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifting nearly 2000 of these trees to First Lady of the United States, Helen Herron Taft, to be planted in D.C. along the Potomac river. However, the trees that arrives ended up being infested with insects and nematodes. Thus, it would not be until 1912 when an additional 3,020 cherry trees would be shipped to Washington. 

~ Definition of Phenology: Phenology refers to how events within the biological life cycle of a plant are influenced by factors related to seasonal variation, climate, and habitat. When assessing the phenology of the Japanese Flowering Cherry (Japanese Cherry Blossom), a study conducted by Japanese researchers of this family of trees provides ample insight regarding how various factors related to air temperature, radiation, globe temperature, etc have an impact on observed flowering dates and the overall life cycle of the Japanese flowering cherry. Study: Ohashi, Y.; Ikeda, H. "The Phenology of Cherry Blossom (Prunus Yedoensis "Somei-Yoshino") and the Geographic Features Contributing to Its Flowering," International Journal of Biometeorology, vol. 56, 2012, pp 903-914. The phenology of the Japanese flowering cherry is significantly affected by the surface heat budgets (absorbed energy) of the buds of the tree. This is associated with radiations (sola & infared) as well as wind characteristics within the region the tree resides. Thus, air temperature is not as important of a factor as the actual temperature of the buds themselves on the tree. The climatological geography of these plants spans across three distinct regions: inland mountains, urban, and coastal. Inland and coastal regions have low air and global temperatures up to the flowering date of the tree. In contrast, urban. regions have some of the highest measurements of air and global temperature prior to flowering date. Wind speeds, however, are smaller in urban regions as opposed to coastal and inland mountain. From this study, we can understand that climate (specifically temperature across a variety of components) contributes greatly to when these flowers actually begin to bloom--which normally occurs towards the middle of the spring season (late-mid April - June). Due to the variation in which these trees grow, habitat and environmental factors outside of climate or natural disaster have little effect on its biological events.
  • “All About The Cherry Blossom Tree.” The Tree Center, 15 Feb. 2019, www.thetreecenter.com/all-about-cherry-blossom-tree/. 

  • Foley, Katherine Ellen. “Cherry Blossoms Are Really Just Trees Getting It On.” Quartz, Quartz, qz.com/650108/cherry-blossoms-are-really-just-trees-getting-it-on/.

  • “Hardiness Zone.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Mar. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hardiness_zone.

  • “History of the Cherry Trees.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/history-of-the-cherry-trees.htm.

  • iNaturalist: Connect With Nature (Version 3.2)[Iphone Itunes Store]. 

  • LaGrave, Katherine. “The Japanese Cherry Blossom Tradition You Should Know About.” Condé Nast Traveler, Condé Nast Traveler, 5 Oct. 2016, www.cntraveler.com/stories/2016-03-28/the-japanese-cherry-blossom-tradit…

  • Map of Prunus Serrulata – Discover Life, www.discoverlife.org/mp/20m?kind=Prunus%2Bserrulata.

  • Ohashi, Y.; Ikeda, H. “The Phenology of Cherry Blossom (Prunus Yedoensis “Somei-Yoshino”) and the Geographic Features Contributing to Its Flowering,” International Journal of Biometeorology, vol. 56, 2012, pp 903-914.

  • “Street Tree Inventory Map.” Urban Resources Initiative, 19 Feb. 2021, uri.yale.edu/maps/street-tree-inventory-map.