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That was Cherry blossom time, that was!

Dr M says: So what’s your favourite Cherry blossom?

Dr M is particularly fond of the purest white blossoms of the native Prunus spinosus (Blackthorn) but he’s a sucker for most cherry blossom.

There’s something about cherry blossom time; first there’s winter, greyness, rain, greyness again, possibly snow and ice and certainly cold!

And then somethings says “let there be Prunus” AND THERE IS PRUNUS! And how!

Clouds of wondrous blossoms, massed white, pink, red and everything in between. Surely only a heart of stone can fail to be moved by the beauty of this spectacle, a wonder of the natural world (aided and abetted by cultivation and planting of course!).

And then, as quickly as they arrived, they’re gone, puff!

But somehow their very transience renders the delicate blossoms the more potent and the more desirable and desired!

Last weekend the blossoms were at their peak in and Dr M took a wander through the University of Reading’s Harris garden, and there he lay, cushioned on grass, facing the blue sky and between a canopy of the most glorious, the whitest of white, the delicatest of delicate blossoms!

The Japanese take cherry blossom time very seriously indeed. The “Hanami” blossom ceremony is the centuries-old practice of picnicking under a blooming sakura or ume tree (Prunus serrulata).

And during these cheerful ceremonies, any cherry blossoms that happen to drift down and alight on the head of one beneath is taken as a very welcome sign of the best of best luck!

The “Hanami” festival is steeped in history and mystery, but it seems clear that the cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life, an aspect of Japanese cultural tradition often associated with Buddhistic influences.

The transience of the blossoms, their extreme and startling beauty, their rapid appearance and their just as rapid death, is readily associated with mortality, and cherry blossoms are richly symbolic in art and culture.

It’s no wonder Dr M found such solace and joy beneath such sacred and spiritual blossoms.



  • Ryanne

    Can you suggest the simplest way to tell a pear tree from a cherry tree at flowering time (ie Prunus from Pyrus)? Is it obvious? I have heard that the easiest way is that Cherries have multiple peduncles originating from one point on a twig, whereas Pear have just one. Is this true and if so does it work across the board?

  • DrM

    Ryanne, nice question! With all these blossoms around how to tell your Prunus from your Pyrus! The peduncle trick can work certainly, Pears have a single stalk while many Cherries are borne in clusters. But not always, Blackthorn can have flowers borne singly and so the best check is the flowers. Prunus (Cherries and Plums) and Pyrus (Pear) are in different sub-families of the Rosaceae which gives us a clue that there must be something quite different about them. Prunus is in sub-family Amygdaloideae (which includes Cherries and Plums) and Pyrus is in sub-family Maloideae (which includes a wide range of genera including Malus (Apples), Sorbus (Whitebeams), Cotoneaster and Mespilus (the Medlar).
    To answer your question, the difference between Prunus and Pyrus lies in the fruit. Cut open a Cherry fruit (technically known as a drupe) and there is one “seed” (with a very hard stone outer covering), cut open a Pear fruit (known as a pome) and there are several seeds. Each seed is the product of a single carpel so Prunus has one carpel per flower and Pyrus more than one. Also, in Prunus the carpel is not fused to the receptacle cup and the ovary is superior, whereas in Pyrus the carpels are fused to the receptacle cup and the ovary is inferior or semi-inferior. So check the flowers with your hand lens and it’s pretty conclusive! As always, eXtreme botany becomes much easier (and more interesting) with the hand lens!

  • Anthea Straddin

    I heard the one about the peduncle too, there so much blossom about, it’s not always easy to tell them apart, until the fruits appear of course! Can you write a post showing the differences between the main fruits, I am thinking of cherries, and plums and apples and pears for example, thanks!

  • DrM

    Anthea, yes, as it happens I have this one up my sleeve, watch this space! Dr M.

  • Vega

    My moms weeping cherry grows green leaves like it’s wild as oppose to the pinkish white flowers it use to. How do I get it back to growing the flowers? I am new to gardening and would like to help my mom with this.

    • DrM

      Strange, cherry trees usually flower quite naturally every year without any help! Is there anything restricting its growth? Send me a photo and more info and we’ll try to solve your mum’s cherry conundrum! Dr M

  • Vega

    It bloomed recently mostly white with a little bit of pink. My mom wondered why it’s not all pink like before? I sent photos of it to you email. 🙂

    • DrM

      Yes I saw the email thanks. I’m puzzled though, I a not aware of cherry blossom changing colour from year to year for any reason, pink is pink and white white! However I will make some investigations and get back to you. As I said in my email to you, I love white blossoms the most so I would be quite happy with the abundant white flowers (and glad they are not pink which I don’t like so much!) Dr M

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