Is there any scene more iconic than standing amongst cherry blossom trees while they shower you with their pink petals? We think not! Japan’s national flower, the cherry blossom, signals the start of spring and is a spectacular reminder that life is fleeting, and we need to make the most of it while we can.
Beyond singing songs about “sakura” in elementary school, how much do you really know about these beautiful blooms? Read on for more facts as well as cherry blossom meaning and symbolism!
Cherry Blossoms Represent Renewal, Impermanence, and More
Also known as sakura, cherry blossoms symbolize renewal, the impermanence of beauty, the fleeting nature of life, the essence of the moment, and more in Japanese culture.
In China, where cherry blossoms originated, sakura represents femininity and love.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival Runs Mid-March through Mid-April
If you’re looking to celebrate this beautiful bloom in the United States, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is held in Washington, D.C. from mid-March to mid-April every year.
The festival involves far more than just showing up to admire the thousands of flowering cherry trees. Typical events include an opening ceremony, parade, kite festival, pink tie dinner party, and performances galore.
Can’t make it to D.C.? Cherry blossom festivals are held in many cities around the world.
Peak Bloom Is Typically Around April 4
It’s nearly impossible to predict the peak bloom more than 10 days in advance. What is the peak bloom? The peak bloom date is the day when 70% of the cherry blossoms are open, providing the most spectacular blooming.
Peak bloom is heavily influenced by the weather, which is why it’s so difficult to predict far in advance. Warm weather leads to an earlier peak, cool weather leads to a later peak, heavy rainfall will bring an end to the beauty abruptly, and late frosts can prevent the trees from blooming at all. While the earliest recorded peak bloom in Washington, D.C. was March 15 and the latest was April 18, the marvelous event usually occurs around April 4.
Plan Your D.C. Trip Using The National Park Service’s Bloom Watch
Want to plan a last-minute trip to catch the peak bloom in Washington, D.C.? The National Park Service provides Bloom Watch, a peak bloom projection of about a 3-day period when the event is likely to occur.
Cherry Trees Likely Originated in China’s Himalayan Highlands
While Japan is the country most famous for its love of sakura, cherry trees seem to have originally grown in China’s Himalayan highlands, with the trees only making it to Japan around 1,100 years ago.
Macon, Georgia Is the “Cherry Blossom Capital of the World”
While Washington, D.C. is well-known for its stunning cherry trees, Macon, Georgia claims to be the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World with more than 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees that bloom yearly. How did an American city end up with so many cherry blossom trees?
In the middle of the 20th century, Macon realtor William A. Fickling Sr. discovered a Yoshino cherry tree in his backyard, fell in love with the beautiful blooms, learned to propagate the plant, and freely shared them with his community.
Traverse City, Michigan Has Over 2 Million Cherry Trees
In Michigan, Traverse City produces 40% of the U.S.’s tart cherry crop from over 2 million cherry trees.
Due to Michigan’s northern latitude and long winter, the blooms tend to reach their peak in mid-May or even later. Since the trees throughout the region bloom at different times based on how far they are from Grand Traverse Bay, you have greater odds of catching at least one peak bloom during your late spring or early summer visit.
Cherry Trees Can Be Huge
While ornamental cherry blossom trees average a maximum height of 25 to 50 feet (depending on the USDA growing zone), wild black cherry trees can grow to be 80 feet tall and 60 feet wide.
An Amsterdam Park Named Each of its 400 Cherry Blossom Trees
In the year 2000, the Japanese Women’s Club in Amsterdam donated 400 trees to Amsterdamse Bos. They gave each tree a Dutch name: half the names are female and the other half are male.
The Largest LEGO Cherry Blossom Tree Was 14 Feet Tall
In 2018, the Guinness World Record for the largest LEGO brick cherry blossom tree ever made was set in LEGOLAND Japan by a tree that was 14 feet tall, weighed over 7,000 pounds, and was made from over 800,000 LEGO bricks. It took a team of staff in the Czech Republic more than 6,700 hours of work to construct it!
There Are 430+ Varieties of Cherry Blossom Trees
While Yoshino trees are the most common variety in Washington, D.C. and Japan, there are actually more than 430 varieties of cherry blossom trees.
In Japan, some varieties bloom as early as January, some don’t bloom until the middle of May, and others bloom twice a year – once in April and again from October to January.
Cherry Blossom “Flower Watching” Has Been Around for a Millenium
As far back as the Heian Period (794 – 1185), hanami – “flower watching” parties for the nobility – have been dedicated to picnicking under cherry blossom trees. That’s more than a thousand years of people admiring this gorgeous bloom!
Hanami Picnics Are Illuminated at Night
In Japan, cherry blossom trees are often illuminated with lanterns or lights at night, providing a breathtaking experience. Viewing sakura at night is called yozakura.
Japan’s First Gift of Cherry Trees Nearly Caused a Diplomatic Crisis
Japan first sent cherry blossom trees to the United States in 1910, but US inspectors from the Department of Agriculture recommended burning the 2,000 trees to protect American specimens after finding insects and diseases in the trees. This incident nearly created a diplomatic crisis and required permission from President Taft and the secretaries of state and war before carrying out the recommendation.
Washington, D.C.’s Cherry Trees Were a Gift From Japan
Tokyo mayor Yuko Ozaki gave Washington, D.C. 3,020 more cherry trees in 1912, and First Lady Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, ceremonially planted the first two trees. The U.S. reciprocated the gift by sending 40 flowering dogwoods to Japan in 1915.
Picking Flowers From Cherry Blossom Trees Is Illegal in Washington, D.C.
Climbing cherry blossom trees and picking the blossoms are illegal in Washington, D.C., considered vandalism of federal property. While you can get arrested for it, Metropolitan Police mostly issue warnings and small fines.
Flowering Cherry Trees Are Primarily Ornamental
Flowering cherry blossom trees typically produce tiny, black, bitter cherries more suited to birds than humans, while cherry trees grown for fruit production tend to have less spectacular blooms. It simply requires too much energy for a tree to produce both large, tasty fruit and showy, spectacular flowers.
George Washington Never Chopped Down a Cherry Tree
We’ve all heard the story. When George Washington was 6, he was gifted a hatchet and damaged his father’s cherry tree. When his angry father confronted him, George said, “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet.”
The thing is…this event never happened. It was added to the fifth edition of one of his biographies, The Life of Washington, 7 years after Washington’s death to portray him as a perfect, virtuous role model. The anecdote was later recast as a children’s story to teach morality.
Cherry Blossoms Are Edible
Cherry blossoms have a subtle taste, mixing floral, bitter, and earthy elements, and you can find a wide variety of food and drinks made with these blooms. Some of the most common ways to include cherry blossoms in Japanese cuisine are:
- Sakura onigiri are rice balls made with the pickled leaves and flowers of cherry trees.
- Sakurayu is a cherry blossom tea made by pouring hot water over the pickled flower.
- Sakuramochi is a rice cake wrapped in a cherry blossom leaf and often topped with a flower.
- Sakura anpan includes a sweet bean paste surrounded by fluffy bread and topped with a salted cherry blossom.
Cherry Blossoms Aren’t Always Pink
While the most popular varieties of cherry blossom trees provide pink blooms, some varieties have white flowers rather than pink.
How Long Do Cherry Blossoms Live?
If you’re talking about the flowers, individual cherry trees usually only bloom for about a week or two. If you’re curious about the cherry blossom trees, they usually live about 30 to 40 years.
Do Cherry Blossoms Smell?
Sakura has such a subtle, delicate scent that you may not smell it if you put a blossom right up to your nose. However, pickling cherry blossoms brings out coumarin, a fragrant organic chemical.
Do Cherry Blossoms Symbolize Love?
In China, cherry blossoms do represent love, along with femininity. In Japan, they aren’t associated with romantic love. However, they can symbolize things like love for the privilege of being alive and love for being able to appreciate moments of beauty.
Where Can I Learn More Flower Facts?
Do you love learning about flowers and want to learn more? You can learn about more traditional Japanese flowers or read about sunflower facts, facts about jasmine, and peony facts you may not know now!Shop All