Weeping Higan Cherry

Basic Information
Tree ID: 
Genus and species: 
This weeping Higan cherry stands in Grove Street Cemetery. In mid-April it is a waterfall of pink blossoms when the surrounding trees remain bare. The common name of this tree derives from Ohigan, a Buddhist holiday celebrated in its native Japan on the autumnal and spring equinoxes. This particular weeping Higan cherry is 7.3m tall, although the species can grow to over 12m at maturity. Weeping Higan cherries can be remarkably long-lived: one famous tree in Japan is over 1,000 years old. Although the trees themselves may live centuries, the flowers linger only for a short time and consequently the cherry blossoms have long symbolized not only spring, but also the transience of all things.
Aimy Yu, Keyanna Jackson and Samantha Agron
Collected Data
Tree shape: 
Date of tree entry: 
7.30 m
Diameter at breast height: 
0.56 m

The tree is single-trunked; the trunk typically branches 5 to 6 feet above the ground. The bark is initially a copper-bronze color and features long, horizontal lenticels. With age, the bark becomes gray, scaly, plate-like, and prone to fissures that release a thick, viscous sap.
Twigs & branches
The tree features very few spur shoots - most flowers grow from buds along the straight, slender, comparatively unbranched weeping twigs. Twigs grow rapidly at the weeping terminals, and more moderately from the upper arching shoots.
The weeping Higan cherry has simple, alternate leaves with an ovate or ovate-oblong shape, serrate leaf margins, and pinnate venation. The tree is deciduous and the autumn leaf color is yellow or orange. In the spring the green leaves emerge shortly after the blossoms first appear. The leaves are about 2 to 4 inches long.
Reproductive Structures
The weeping Higan cherry has pale pink flowers about 0.5 to 1 inch in diameter that are pollinated by bees. The blossoms are semidouble, complete flowers that grow in clusters of 4 to 8 blossoms. The tree flowers in mid to late April.
The fruits are small oval drupes (about 0.33 to .5 in. diameter) that ripen from red to black in autumn. They are sparse and hidden by the foliage. The fruit is eaten and the seeds are dispersed by animals such as squirrels.
  • Winter
  • Spring (April 8, 2016)
  • Spring (April 17, 2016)
  • Summer (July 15, 2016)
  • Autumn (Representative Image)
Natural range of distribution: 
The weeping Higan cherry is native to Japan and thrives throughout the archipelago. It was one of the first varieties of Japanese cherry blossom trees introduced to the U.S. and Europe in the mid to late 19th century. The tree thrives in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 8 (average annual minimum temperature -20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit).
Origin, history, and uses: 

The weeping Higan cherry is native to Japan, where it is called beni-shidare zakura (pink weeping cherry). The weeping Higan cherry is one of more than a dozen species of cherry blossom trees. These species of the genus Prunus are valued for the beauty of their flowers and do not produce fruit that is edible by humans. The weeping Higan cherry and other cherry blossom trees are culturally significant as symbols of spring both in Japan and in others regions where they have been introduced. In Japan, the springtime custom of hanami involves picnicking beneath cherry blossom trees in March and April in order to enjoy the flowers. This practice has been adapted by U.S. cities that host cherry blossom festivals. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. commemorates the city receiving a gift of cherry trees from the city of Tokyo in 1912. The festival events run throughout the month of April and include a large street festival. In New Haven, the Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival, now in its 43rd year, celebrates the 72 cherry blossom trees that were planted in the neighborhood in 1973.

The shape and flowers of the weeping Higan cherry have made it highly prized for its aesthetic value. Miharu Takizakura, a 1,000 year-old weeping Higan cherry in Fukushima Prefecture, is considered one of the three great cherry trees in Japan and was designated a national treasure in 1922. The tree flowers in mid to late April and is a tourist destination, attracting 300,000 visitors every year. One of the features of cherry blossoms that contribute to their symbolic significance is that they are only in full bloom for a short period of time (between a few days to two weeks, depending on weather conditions). The fleeting nature of the flowers embodies the concept of mono no aware, an appreciation for the impermanence of things. Cherry blossoms are a common motif in Japanese poetry and a kigo (seasonal word) that represents spring (they are often referred to simply as hana, which means flower).

In addition to their aesthetic value, cherry blossoms have practical uses. Kabazaiku is the craft of making tea boxes and other woodworks out of cherry wood. Both the flowers and leaves of cherry blossom trees are edible and have many culinary uses. Sakurayu is a herbal tea made from salt-pickled cherry blossoms in hot water, traditionally served at weddings instead of green tea. In Japanese, the expression “to make the tea cloudy” (ocha wo nigosu) means to be ambiguous. Because sakuraya is a clear drink, it symbolizes an auspicious beginning. Sakura mochi, a confection typically eaten in the spring, is a rice cake filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf. Many other products, including lotions and candies, can be purchased that feature cherry blossom design motifs, scent, or taste. 

The weeping Higan cherry blooms in mid to late April depending on the temperature. Within two weeks of the first appearane of flower buds, the tree is in full bloom, which lasts about two weeks, depending on wind and rain conditions. The blossoms are complete flowers and are pollinated by bees. The leaves begin to emerge while the tree is in bloom. In the summer, small fruits grow and ripen from red to black in the autumn. The fruits are eaten by squirrels and other animals and may remain on the tree into the winter. In addition to its spring blossoms, the tree is valued for its ornamental yellow and orange fall foliage, which it sheds for the winter as the temperature declines.

Aiello, A.S. Japanese Flowering Cherries - A 100-Year Long Love Affair (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2012-69-4-japanese-fl…

Double-flowered Higan cherry. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://bernheim.org/explore/arboretum/bernheim-select/1597-2/

Haiku of Kobayashi Issa (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://haikuguy.com/issa/search.php?keywords=cherry+blossom

Higan Cherry. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://dendro.cnre.vt.edu/dendrology/syllabus/factsheet.cfm?ID=311

Historic Wooster Square Association Cherry Blossom Festival (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.historicwoostersquare.org/cherryblossomfestival.html

Miharu Takizakura. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7792.html

National Cherry Blossom Festival. History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Festival (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016 from http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/history/

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’ (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://hvp.osu.edu/pocketgardener/source/description/pr_tella.html

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’ Higan Cherry. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.hort.uconn.edu/plants/detail.php?pid=363

Prunus subhirtella var. pendula - Weeping Higan Cherry (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://plantfacts.osu.edu/pdf/0247-908.pdf

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’: Weeping Higan Cherry. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st519

Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’. Mature Weeping Higan Cherry. Weeping Higan Cherry (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://hort.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/tree_fact_sheets/prusubb.pdf

Prunus × subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/details?plantid=5464

Takizakura.com. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.takizakura.com/

United States. National Park Service. (n.d.). Bloom Watch. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm

Weeping Higan Cherry - Prunus subhirtella var. pendula. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://www.weepingcherry.org/prunus_subhirtella_var._pendula.php

Media and Arts

The renowned poet Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828) wrote many poems about cherry blossoms. The following poems were translated by David G. Lanoue. For dozens more cherry blossom poems, visit: http://haikuguy.com/issa/search.php?keywords=cherry+blossom


Sasuga hana chiru ni miren wa nakari keri

When cherry blossoms


No regrets


Gunzei kootsu iribekarazu to sakura kana

“No soldiers


Say the cherry blossoms


Kimi nakute makoto ni tadai no sakura kana

Without you

How vast

The cherry blossom grove


Hito ni kuwareshi sakura saku nari mi yoshino no yama

These cherry blossoms 

People eat

Yoshino Hill


Asu araba araba to omou sakura kana

Tomorrow and tomorrow

Will they still be?

Cherry blossoms

Original poetry and translations by Samantha Agron

花の雨 (Hana no ame)

石森にちる (Ishimori ni chiru​)

紅しだれ (Beni shidare)

Rain of blossoms

Scatters in the stone forest

Weeping pink

手に器 (Te ni utsuwa)

桜は出るや (Sakura wa deru ya)

われやすい (Wareyasui)

The bowl in my hand

Cherry blossoms emerging

Fragile things

花見あと (Hanami ato)

果物が出る (Kudamono ga deru)

空き腹よ (Sukihara yo)

After viewing the blossoms

The fruit emerges

An empty stomach

やせた腕 (Yaseta ude)

そろそろ重る (Soro soro omoru)

花の雲 (Hana no kumo)

Thin arms

Slowly become heavy

Cloud of blossoms

Cherry blossom bowl made by Aimy

Thank you to EEB223L Wednesday section for participating in our cherry blossom word association. Because the cherry blossom tree is steeped in so much symbolism and is a common motif in visual art, poetry, and marketing, we wanted to hear what this plant means to different people. The top associations in response to the words cherry blossom were: