Shirofugen Bud Scales

Shirofugen red bud scales

I was taking a walk under a row of Shirofugen cherry trees when I noticed these petal-shaped things on the sidewalk.

Shirofugen red bud scales

I took a closer look but realized they were obviously not petals.

Shirofugen red bud scales

I examined the cherry tree to determine where they were coming from.

Shirofugen red bud scales

They were bud scales.

(Can you name the other parts of the cherry trees?)

Shirofugen red bud scales

It’s the end of season for Shirofugen. You can notice the cherry blossoms turning from white to pink.

Shirofugen red bud scales

The tree is getting rid of all the unnecessary parts like the bud scales and, soon, the blossoms.

Shirofugen red bud scales

The red bud scales are visible through the pink blossoms and copper leaves of the Shirofugen.

Enjoy the blossoms while you can.

To find out if there are Shirofugen where you live, check out the VCBF cherry blossom viewing map.


How to identify cherry blossoms


I used to take lots of pictures of cherry blossoms, then come home and browse through the guide Ornamental cherries in Vancouver to try to find out what kind of cherry tree it was.

At the Blossom Biology workshop with Douglas Justice, I learnt that identifying cherry trees is a process: you can’t identify the cherry tree by looking solely at the blossoms. The color of the emerging leaves (green or copper) and the color of the blossoms (some will open pink and turn white) will give you clues on its identity. The shape of the tree, too.

This means you need to photograph more than just the blossoms if you want to be able to identify a cherry tree. Here are some tips:

  • Diffused light is best. Block the sun with a book so there are no shadows on the flower. This will allow you to capture the color of the blossoms (some hints of pink on a white flower can be a clue).
  • Measure the blossoms or photograph them next to a nickel or quarter to give an idea of the scale. Or use the ruler printed on the last page of the book Ornamental cherries in Vancouver.
  • Capture the whole tree. The shape of the crown will give you tips on what kind of tree it is. Fore more info, check out these drawings of cherry tree shapes by Wendy Cutler on the UBC forum showing different crowns: vase, umbrella, narrow, etc.
  • Look at the emerging flowers and leaves (some leaves are copper, others are green).
  • Examine the old flowers (some blossoms will come out pink and become white).
  • Number of petals (single flowers have 5 petals, semi-double flowers have 6-10 petals, double blossoms have 10 petals or more, and chrysanthemum cherry blossoms can have 100 petals!
  • Scent (some cherry trees will have a fragrant almond scent).
  • Part of the flowers: prunus avium is a white cherry tree easily recognizable by its recurved sepals (the leafy part shaped like a star that is usually in contact with the back of the flower is sticking up):


If you’ve taken care of noting all these elements, identifying cherry trees will be easier.


What are the parts of a cherry blossom?

Can you name the parts of this cherry blossom tree?

During the Blossom Biology workshop on April 11, Douglas Justice introduced us to the different parts of a cherry blossom.

I discovered there are much more to cherry blossoms than the flowers: the bud scales open up and out come the peduncle, the bracts, the pedicels, then the blossoms.

It takes lots of energy for a cherry tree to grow blossoms!

PS Douglas showed us an illustration from a book but since I couldn’t use that illustration, I’ve created my own identification slide using a  picture of budding Kanzan cherry blossom.


Akebono versus Somei-Yoshino: what’s the difference?

Akebono cherry blossom - petaloid (incomplete petal)

In early spring, the Akebono and the Somei-Yoshino cherry trees are flowering at the same time in Vancouver and they look very similar, so how can you tell them apart?

Somei-Yoshino is the parent of Akebono: the blossoms are a bit whiter than Akebono and the tree has curved branches, while Akebono has stiff straight branches. However, there’s an easier way to tell the difference. Look at this Akebono blossom closely:

Akebono cherry blossom - petaloid (incomplete petal)

The most distinctive characteristic of Akebono is that some blossoms will have a petaloid (an additional incomplete petal). This unformed petal – a stamen that mutated – will occur every 10th or 15th flower.

If you’re pretty sure the tree you’re looking at is either Somei-yoshino or Akebono, and you find a petaloid, then you know the cherry tree is an Akebono. However, the petaloid is usually one of the first petal to fall, so it’s important to make your identification early. Otherwise, you might falsely identify an Akebono for a Somei-Yoshino. (At the Blossom Biology workshop the Akebono had shed its petaloid and looked almost identical to the Somei-Yoshino).

Thanks to Douglas Justice for all the information he provided during the cherry blossom biology workshop at VanDusen garden.


Akebono Cherry Buds

Akebono cherry bud at Burrard skytrain station
March 8, 2013

Can you guess how many blossoms came out of that cherry bud?

Akebono cherry bud at Burrard skytrain station.
March 22, 2013

There were actually three Akebono cherry blossoms hidden inside that bud!

I’m not even sure what all the parts of a cherry blossom are called. I’ve registered to the cherry scout program to learn more about these beautiful trees. There will be a free workshop called Blossom Biology on April 11, 2013 offered by Douglas Justice.

Tree Talk (not a Walk) in the evening: Blossom Biology Workshop

  • April 11, 2013, Thursday, 7:30pm to 9pm
  • Classroom at VanDusen Botanical Garden, in the new building, end of hallway to the left
  • Presented by Douglas Justice, Associate Director and Curator of Collections, UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research

Douglas brings the cherries to you! Learn how to identify our cherry cultivars. Registration is requested for this workshop, as seating is limited.

Register now.