Cherry Blossom Trees
By Carolina Grace Figueroa
Volume 2 Issue 6
April 14, 2022
Image provided by Country living Magazine
Cherry blossom trees flower in the US between mid-March and mid-April and last for less than two weeks. These special blossoms symbolize that spring is in the air, represent signs of rebirth and renewal, and bring about love, hope, and joy. There are over 200 diverse varieties of cherry blossom trees, with billowy flowers ranging in color from white to ivory to rose pink to dark pink. These trees are special because they have many flowers and little to no fruit. Not all cherry blossom trees actually bear edible fruit; only some variations do. Cherries do grow on some of the trees, but they remain smaller in size than store bought cherries and are much too sour to eat (they are used largely for ornamental purposes).
There were no cherry blossom trees in the US in the late 1800’s, so Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, an American world travel writer, was determined to change that. For 24 years, she tried to convince the US government to plant these special trees in Washington, DC. In 1909, First Lady Helen Herron Taft, the wife of President William H. Taft, agreed to accept 2,000 cherry blossom trees as a gift from Japan. The first shipment that arrived to the US in 1910 was infested with insects and diseases, so they were burned and destroyed. However, 3,020 healthy trees of twelve different varieties arrived in 1912 and were planted in the nation’s capital. To reciprocate, the US gifted dogwood trees to Japan in 1915. The cherry blossom trees became a symbol of the blooming relationship, growing friendship, and strong bond between the nations of Japan and the US heartland. This year signifies the 110th anniversary of the first cherry blossom trees arriving in America from Japan.
Cherry blossom trees grow all across Japan, where they are called sakura, and have carried a very special meaning for hundreds of years. When they flower, they represent the arrival of spring, the start of something new, a revival, and an appreciation of life. It reminds us about new life, new beginnings, and to never lose hope in life. In an over 1,000-year-old Japanese tradition called hanami, people throw “flower watching” or “flower viewing” parties, where they gather under canopies of cherry blossoms to celebrate this wonderful time of year.
The cherry blossom season depends on geographical location, climate, and weather conditions (temperature, winds, rain, daylight). The warmer the temperature, the earlier the trees bloom. They have been flowering earlier than ever in the past few years and scientists attribute this to climate change and global warming. Whenever they bloom, they don’t last very long. A few days after peak or full bloom, the delicate petals begin to fall off and float gently in the air to the ground. Millions of people across the US flock to see this naturally beautiful spectacle, especially at The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, (with over 3,800 cherry trees within the park) and the colorful display at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in NYC (at the Sakura Matsuri Festival). In Traverse City, Michigan, along Highway M-37, drivers delight in a floral spring show of about 2 million cherry blossom trees that line the roadway. It is important to remember “Don’t pluck or break off a cherry blossom in Washington, DC, or climb a cherry blossom tree, as you could get fined or arrested” (It is viewed as vandalism of federal property).
As the buds burst open in parks and streets across the country, people throw picnics and outdoor hanami (“watching blossoms”) parties with friends and family “to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the flowers and to welcome in the warmth of the weather”. Hanami picnics are even more spectacular at late-night, when Japanese hang paper lanterns in cherry blossom trees to illuminate them to give off an ethereal glow. There are many seasonal cherry blossom treats and snacks all across the world that one can enjoy during a picnic, hanami, or cherry blossom festival celebrating the change of seasons:
Baskin-Robbins has a frozen treat cherry blossom flavored ice cream in Japan, getting its taste and pink color from sakura extract (from edible cherry blossom leaves), while Haagen-Dazs in the UK included cherry blossom flowers in their favorite ice cream jubilee.
Georgetown Cupcakes, a bakeshop in Washington, DC, offers this designer baked beauty cupcake every spring. Their vanilla cupcake has fresh cherries inside, cherry-infused cream cheese frosting, and a decorative cherry blossom flower on top.
Japan’s largest doughnut chain, Mister Donut, offers a selection of cherry blossom doughnuts. Here they use dough with the special flowers baked right in, as well as sakura-flavored icing and whipped cream.
In different regions of Japan, there are individual variations of the iconic mochi dessert, which consists of sweet chewy rice balls filled with red bean paste (anko) and wrapped in aromatic pickled cherry blossom leaves. The leaf (and flower petal blossoms) is edible and adds a slightly salty taste.
Cherry blossom flavored French macarons are offered at Olivia Macaron in Washington, DC. These sweet and subtle fragrant treats are the perfect springtime bite.
Cherry blossom madeleine cookies are delightfully buttery, slightly sweet and salty, with a hint of cherry blossom fragrance.
As for beverages, sakura infused versions of Coke and Pepsi have a light, delicate cherry and flowery taste. You can pair up a sweet treat with brewed sakura blossom tea or a cocktail, or enjoy one of Starbucks seasonal sakura-themed lattes.
Cherry blossom trees grow all over the world, from Australia to Brazil to France to Turkey to Japan to the US. Cherry blossoms are the national flower of Japan and help us to appreciate the beauty of nature all around us. They are used in Japanese art, film, poetry, literature, dishware, stationary, and musical performances. In the US, “Japanese Cherry Blossom is a top-selling fragrance from Bath and Body Works, with 30 million units of the mixture of cherry blossoms, crisp pears, mimosa petals, and sweet sandalwood sold each year”. Besides being charmingly pretty and sweetly scented, these notable flowering trees have years of heritage and rich history, as well as many festivals hosted in their honor each year!