Cherry blossom season signals the start of spring. These beautiful blooms burst forth as winter fades, capturing hearts and imaginations with their ephemeral beauty. But beneath their delicate exterior lies a question – are these iconic trees actually cherry trees?
Cherry blossom trees conjure up images of pink and white flower-laden branches. Their vibrant displays draw admiring crowds in locations around the world. Yet it’s easy to assume cherry blossoms must produce cherries given their name.
So are ornamental cherry blossom trees the same species as the cherry trees that bear sweet and tart fruit in summer? Or are cherry blossoms and cherry trees two different types of trees altogether?
What Defines a Cherry Tree?
To understand the distinction between cherry trees and cherry blossoms, it’s helpful to first look at what qualifies a tree as a cherry tree.
The simplest definition of a cherry tree is one that produces cherries as its fruit. These trees belong to the genus Prunus, a group of flowering trees and shrubs that includes other fruit-bearers like peaches, apricots, and almonds.
There are two major types of cherry trees grown for their edible fruit:
- Sweet cherry trees – Produce sweet, dark red cherries. Common varieties include Bing, Rainier, and Black Tartarian.
- Sour cherry trees – Grow bright red, tart cherries ideal for baking and cooking. The Montmorency cherry is a popular sour type.
So in summary, orchards cultivate cherry trees for their sweet and tart fruit which is then consumed fresh, cooked, or preserved. The presence of edible cherries defines a Prunus tree as a cherry tree.
- Cherry trees produce cherries as their fruit
- Common cultivated cherry tree species bear sweet black cherries or sour red cherries
- Cherry trees belong to the Prunus genus of flowering fruit trees
What are Ornamental Cherry Blossom Trees?
If cherry trees are defined by their cherries, then what defines a cherry blossom tree?
Cherry blossom trees, also known as sakura, are ornamental cherry trees cultivated for their stunning displays of flowers rather than fruit. These decorative shade trees burst into clouds of pink and white blossoms for anywhere from 7 to 10 days.
Popular varieties of ornamental cherry include:
- Yoshino cherry – A fast growing hybrid cherry tree that bears pale pink or white blossoms.
- Kwanzan cherry – Its vibrant pink double blossoms open from darker pink buds.
- Weeping cherry – Features cascading branches smothered with blossoms.
These are just a few of the over 200 varieties of ornamental cherry blossom trees. Though colors can range from white to dark pink, what they have in common is breathtaking spring flower shows rather than summer fruit.
- Ornamental cherry blossom trees produce flowers instead of fruit
- Hundreds of cultivated varieties feature blossoms from white to dark pink
- Popular ornamental cherries include Yoshino, Kwanzan, and weeping varieties
The Relationship Between Cherry Trees and Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossom trees dazzle with their transient blooms and cherry trees produce bounties of sweet and tart fruit. But what connects ornamental cherry blossoms with their fruiting counterparts?
While both types belong to the same Prunus genus of trees, they represent different cultivars developed for different purposes.
Fruiting cherry trees have been grown for thousands of years. Some ancient cherry tree varieties like the Stella cherry are believed to have origins tracing back to the Roman empire. Sweet and tart cherry varieties emerged through natural selection and cultivation over centuries.
Ornamental cherry trees meanwhile emerged more recently. Some originiated as genetic mutations of fruiting cherries that lost their fruiting abilities. In other cases, they resulted from deliberate breeding efforts to produce vibrant flowering hybrids.
The key point is cherry blossom trees represent specially bred cultivars intended for ornamental flowers rather than fruit. They may share ancestry with some fruiting cherry trees, but have taken a different evolutionary path. One focuses on flowers and the other fruit.
- Cherry blossoms and fruiting cherries both belong to the Prunus genus
- Ornamental cherry blossoms originated from flowering mutations of fruiting cherries
- Cherry trees were bred for fruit while cherry blossoms cultivated for flowers
Why so Much Confusion Between Cherries and Cherry Blossoms?
Given ornamental cherry blossoms don’t actually produce cherries, why does confusion persist around the name? A few key reasons explain the mix-up.
The similarity in names leads many people to logically but incorrectly assume blossoming cherry trees grow cherries. Who wouldn’t link the two given the shared “cherry” name?
Additionally, some flowering ornamentals originated directly from fruiting cherry trees. Certain varieties like the Kwanzan cherry blossom trace their lineage back to flowering fruiting cherry trees. So cherries literally are part of their family tree!
Lastly, certain cherry tree varieties also produce beautiful spring flower shows. So it’s not just strictly ornamental sakura covered in vivid blossoms. For instance, the Stella cherry tree bears white flowers alongside its sweet red fruit.
With similar names, interwoven histories, and dual abilities to flower and fruit, it’s no wonder most people assume the trees producing those profuse pink and white blooms also grow cherries. But despite appearances, that is not the case!
- Similar “cherry” names cause confusion between blossoms and fruit
- Shared genetic history muddles understanding of the trees
- Some fruiting cherry trees also produce ornamental blooms
Key Differences Between Cherry Trees and Cherry Blossoms
While they may share common genetics and names, important distinctions exist between fruiting cherry trees and ornamental cherry blossoms. Here is a breakdown of their key differences:
|Cherry Blossom Trees
|Fruit production for fresh eating/baking
|Produce sweet black cherries or tart red cherries
|Some varieties have showy spring blooms
|Profuse blooms in wide array of colors
|Varies depending on variety
|Early to mid-spring bloom
|Attract pollinators for fruit set
|Graceful shapes suited for landscaping
|Require full sun and well-drained soil
|Adapted to various site conditions
As shown above, the goals behind growing each type of tree differs. One is prized for its flowers and one for its fruit. Certain shared traits like genetic ties and spring blooms may link them. But they represent distinctly different categories of Prunus trees.
The Verdict – Cherry Blossoms Do Not Grow Cherries!
After untangling their connections, shared name, and dual flowering and fruiting abilities, the answer emerges.
Cherry blossom trees are not cherry trees!
Ornamental trees cultivated for their vivid spring flower displays are not the same as cherry trees that produce sweet and tart summer fruits. While related, they are two different cultivated varieties.
It’s an easy assumption to make that those delicate pinkish-white blooms signal impending fresh cherries. Especially with “cherry” right in their name! But cherry blossom trees bloom with flowers and not fruit.
So while cherry tree flower buds foretell a future bounty of sweet black cherries or tart red cherries, cherry blossom buds only herald the arrival of more flowers. No actual cherries lie nested within those showy petals.
Now that the mystery is solved, it clears up some of the fruit confusion surrounding spring’s most storied flowering display!
Parting Thoughts on Cherry Blossoms
Although they may not produce summer’s sweet treats, cherry blossom trees gift the world with a breathtaking display entirely their own. These iconic blooms herald the end of winter with a joyful burst of life and vibrancy.
The transient beauty of wave after wave of shimmering pinkish blooms speaks to the ephemeral nature of life itself. Glorious yet fleeting, they serve to remind us to appreciate each passing moment of wonder life bestows.
So let us honor and celebrate the cherry blossom not for what it cannot provide in literal fruits. But for the immeasurable joy and inspiration it offers our hearts, minds and souls with its symbolic gifts of natural beauty. A bounty as boundless and timeless as spring’s eternal promise of rebirth.
Additional Proof Cherry Blossoms Don’t Grow Cherries
If you still aren’t convinced that ornamental cherry blossom trees fail to bear cherries, here is some additional proof to consider:
Lack of Pollination
Fruit trees require pollination to set viable fruit. Bees and other insects must spread pollen from flower to flower for fertilization to occur. Once pollinated, the ovaries in the flowers develop into fruits over the following weeks.
Ornamental cherry blossom trees have showy, lush flowers that attract pollinators. But the ovaries of the flowers either fail to develop or abort nearly immediately after blooming. With no chance for fertilization and fruit formation, no cherries can develop.
Missing Fruit Structures
Cherry fruit develops from the ovary contained within a cherry blossom flower. Cherries grow as fleshy drupes – fruits with hard inner pits surrounding a seed.
Ornamental cherry trees lack reproductive flower parts needed for fruit formation. Their flowers may attract pollinators but don’t contain viable ovaries and other structures to ultimately develop into cherries.
Lack of Dormancy in Warm Climates
Cherry trees require a certain number of chill hours below 45°F during winter dormancy to properly set fruit. When winter chill requirements go unmet, trees either fail to bloom or produce poorly.
In warm winter climates, ornamental cherries may bloom repeatedly outside the typical spring flowering period. Their flowering cycle has completely de-coupled from fruit production cues. Yet another sign cherries weren’t part of their original programming!
The Bottom Line
From pollination issues and missing reproductive parts to confusing flowering cycles, ornamental cherry blossoms simply aren’t equipped biologically for bearing cherries! Once again proving conclusively – those beautiful blooms aren’t signaling cherry fruit is on the horizon.
Final Thoughts on Cherry Blossoms and Cherry Trees
While distinctly different trees, ornamental cherry blossoms and fruiting cherry tree varieties remain cousins descended from a common ancestral line. Their shared ties explain cultural confusion around cherry blossom names and fruit associations.
Yet each cultivar serves unique purposes – one for ephemeral flowers and one for sweet summer treats. Together they bookend spring and summer with decorative beauty and practical sustenance.
So enjoy cherry blossoms for what they represent – a visual celebration of nature’s renewing energy after winter’s slumber. Their flowering splendor both prefigures and promises the warmer, fruitful months soon to come.
Frequently Asked Questions on Cherry Blossoms
On extremely rare occasions, an ornamental cherry blossom may set a few fruits, likely due to cross-pollination factors. These are essentially sterile hybrid seeds that pose no real value. For all intents and purposes, cherry blossoms do not bear fruit.
Most ornamental cherries have little to no detectable fragrance, unlike their sweet-scented fruiting cherry cousins. Certain varieties may emit almond-like scents. But lush, vibrant colors rather than sweet aromas are the hallmark of most cherries blooms.
The peak viewing period for ornamental cherry blossoms in full bloom ranges from just 5-10 days on average. Cool, wet, or windy weather can shorten their blooming window even further. Their ephemeral nature adds poetic beauty and reflects the Japanese cultural theme of mono no aware – appreciation of the impermanent.
While all ornamental cherry blossom trees bloom by definition, not all fruiting cherry trees produce significant flower shows. Certain sweet and tart cherry varieties were specifically bred to focus energy on large fruit yields rather than blooms. But others like the Stella cherry offer both flowers and fruit bounty.