On April 7 2013, I joined the cherry talk and walk at the VanDusen botanical garden. Our guide Anne Eng has been a cherry scout for many years and is also a volunteer at the garden.
First, we visited the beni shidare trees on the Great Lawn.
“This is the view of fifteen hundred years” said Anne. In Japan, cherry trees were growing on hillsides. People thought they were beautiful so they uprooted the trees and brought them down closer to civilization. The VanDusen garden replicated the original location by planting the cherry trees on a hill.
The garden has several weeping higan cherry trees which are known as beni shidare (beni means “pink”, and shidare means “weeping”).
Did you know? Cherry trees (prunus) are members of the rose family.
There are two major characteristics of cherry trees:
1) Lenticels ( “Cherry bars, stop the car!”)
If you are not sure if the trees blooming on your street are plum or cherry trees, look at the trunk. Cherry trees have horizontal lines on the bark called “lenticels”. (Lenticels allow gas exchange between the air and the internal tissues).
“All cherry trees have lenticels“, said Anne, “but not all trees with lenticels are cherry trees.”
2) Cherry blossoms grow in clusters called “umbels”. An umbel is when more than one flower comes out of the bud and each flower is at the end of a long stalk (like in this picture).
I was very impressed by the Great White Cherry, or prunus “Taihaku” (seen above):
1) it has big white blossoms (5 cm)
2) and copper color leaves (you can see the copper at the tip of the leaves in this picture)
On the rhododendron walk, we saw a huge somei-yoshino which is the original cherry tree from Japan.
A man from Georgia took a somei-yoshino tree back to his town, donated lots of them, and every year they have the International Cherry festival in this small town in Georgia, in March.
In Japan, they planted samples of somei-yoshino trees in specific location across the country. Every spring, they observe these trees. When the cherry tree has six blossoms, they declare that cherry season has begun and they report it on the news, from the south to the north. It’s called the Cherry Wave.