Photos Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival

Blossom Biology workshop


The Blossom Biology workshop took place at the VanDusen Botanical Garden classroom in the evening of April 11, 2013.

Douglas Justice, a technical advisor for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival, came in with a bucket full of cherry blossoms that he had collected from the garden!

He started the session with a presentation during which we learnt about:

  1. Resources
  2. Cherry look-alike
  3. Photographing cultivars for ID purposes
  4. How to use the dichotomus key
  5. Important identification features
  6. Common cultivars

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

Then, he laid out the various cultivars of cherry blossoms on the table and we got to see them up close and identify them.

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

I’ve learnt a lot about cherry trees. Did you know that 80% of cherry trees are grafted? It’s a nursery practice to take a seedling cherry and to graft it to a stomp (from which many branches will grow). This explains the odd appearance of the trunk.

Blossom Biology with Justice Douglas (April 11, 2013)

Are you able to identify the different types of cherry blossoms in that bucket?

  • Tai Haku, aka Great White Cherry (top right, green leaves and big white flowers… up to 5 cm large!)
  • Beni-shidare, aka weeping cherry (at the very top, teeny tiny pink flowers, they’re the most common in the garden)
  • Yae-beni-shidare, aka double weeping cherry  (left side, branch of dark pink blossoms drooping)
  • Akebono
  • Japanese flowering cherries
  • Kiku-shidare-zakura, aka chrysanthemum cherry
  • and many more.

There are 35 cherries in the book Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver but Douglas Justice says they’ve identified 20 more cultivars since.  Aren’t we lucky to have so many cherry trees in Vancouver?

Tip: For more information about cherry tree identification and other things we’ve learnt at the workshop, type “Blossom Biology” in the search box on the left to view other posts on the subject.


Cherry tree talk and walk at VanDusen

Weedping cherry tree Higan at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

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.

Weedping cherry tree Higan at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

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.

Weedping cherry tree Higan at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

The garden has several weeping higan cherry trees which are known as beni shidare (beni means “pink”, and shidare means “weeping”).

Weedping cherry tree Higan at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

Did you know? Cherry trees (prunus) are members of the rose family.

Bark of a Japanese flowering cherry tree

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).

Great White Cherry at Van Dusen Botanical Garden April 7 2013

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)

Somei Yoshina cherry tree at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

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.

Somei Yoshina cherry tree at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

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.

Chrystanthemum cherry tree at Van Dusen Botanical Garden April 7 2013

The Chrysanthemum cherry tree was one of my favorite cherry trees in the garden.

Snow Fountain weeping cherry tree at Van Dusen Botanical Garden April 7 2013

Snow Fountain.  The name is so pretty.

Somei Yoshina cherry tree at Van Dusen Garden April 7 2013

These are the trees of your future” said Anne, when we visited the cherry trees that are not yet in bloom. The Kanzan and  Shirofugan  should be blooming in two weeks. Kanzan are the most planted cherry trees in Vancouver along with Akebono (Akebono means “daybreak”).

Shirofugan and Shigetsu will be the last cherry trees to bloom in the garden (Shirofugan blossoms grow pink, turn white, then turn pink again). So keep your eyes open.

Did you know? There are several more tree talks and walks (some them focusing on cherry trees) scheduled this month for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.