Monday 22 January 2018

Plum, cherry and peach blossoms: The differences between them

Plum trees, cherry trees, and peach trees belong to the same plant family, so it's easy to confuse their flowers. Use these hints to distinguish between them and enjoy your hanami parties to the fullest, writes Mami Wakamatsu in Matcha. Read on:

If you had to pick a flower to represent Japan, it would be the sakura (cherry blossom). Sakura trees bloom everywhere in the spring, with their pink flowers giving Japan’s streets a brand new complexion.

Plum (ume) trees and peach (momo) trees also produce similarly pink flowers in the springtime. Because these trees are all part of the Rosaceae family of plants, even Japanese people have a hard time telling them apart, and it’s likely that international visitors will have a similar difficulty.

However, in order to enjoy Japan’s spring scenery to the fullest, we recommend that you memorize how to distinguish between these trees. They all have their own characteristics, charms and blooming seasons, so if you can spot the differences, you can appreciate them even more.

The first and most obvious difference is the shape of the petals of the blossoms. The way that flowers appear on each tree is also different, so if you look closely, distinguishing between them is not that difficult.

Plum Trees

Plum trees bloom earlier than sakura, and flower-viewing parties and events are held in places like Japanese gardens. They start blooming while it is still cold, and plum flowers are a pleasant herald of the coming spring.

When they bloom:
From January to around March

・Round-tipped petals
・No flower stems; the flowers bloom close to the branch

Famous places to see them:
Ibaraki, Kairaku-en Park
Tokyo, Imperial Palace East Gardens
Kyoto, Kitano Temmangu
Fukuoka, Daizaifu Temmangu

One bud blooms on each spot on a plum tree branch, so they give off a subdued impression compared to sakura or peach trees. They can have white or pale pink flowers, and you may also see deep pink flowers.

Sakura Trees

When someone mentions Japan, cherry blossoms are one of the first things to spring to mind; that is how intrinsic they are to the national image. In the spring, famous sakura viewing spots across the country are all bustling with activity.

When they bloom:
Between March and April

・Split-tipped petals that form heart shapes
・Long stems and many flowers blooming on one branch, giving off an ostentatious air

Famous places to see them:
Hokkaido, Goryokaku Tower
Tokyo, Sumida Park
Kyoto, Daigoji Temple
Hiroshima, Senkoji Park
Kumamoto, Kumamoto Castle

Some of the sakura varieties can have more petals, lending them even more flamboyance. You will see pale pink flowers the most often.

Peach Trees

Peach tree flowers are known as a decoration during the Japanese spring tradition of Girl’s Day, celebrated on March 3rd. Historically, this was when peach flowers began to bloom, so the occasion is also known as Momo-no-Sekku, or “peach blossom festival.” Peach flowers were originally said to work as charms to ward off evil spirits, so they became used as ornamentation during Girl’s Day, a festival to wish for the health and development of girls.

When they bloom:
Early to mid-April

・Petals that taper to sharp points
・The flowers bloom along the very short stems

Two or more flowers bloom from the buds on each side of a peach tree branch, giving them a flashier look than plum trees. There are many vivid pink peach tree flowers.

Famous places to see them:
Ibaraki, Koga Park
Yamanashi Togenkyo, Southern Alps
Nagano Chikumagawa Beach

These three flowers lend a colorful flair to the Japanese springtime. If you can tell them apart, you'll be able to enjoy the spring scenery even more.

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