Featured Plant

March

Prunus × yedoensis

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Scientific name: Prunus × yedoensis

Family: Rosaceae

Plant type: Deciduous tree

Bloom: White to light pink, fragrant

Environment: Full sun to part shade with moist but well-drained soil

Uses: Specimen plant

About

Prunus × yedoensis Matsum., or Yoshino cherry, is a hybrid cherry blossom tree from Japan. P. × yedoensis puts on a brilliant display of small white to pink fragrant flowers before it leafs out in the Spring.

For many hybrid species there is a clear understanding of which other species are the parents to the hybrid, however, there has been significant debate for many years as to the exact origins of P. × yedoensis. This is further confused by its popularity as a commercially available ornamental. Recent studies have proposed its parent species to be Prunus spachiana f. ascendens (Makino) Kitam. and Prunus speciosa (Koidz.) Ingram. This has yet to be confirmed though and naturally occurring stands of Prunus × yedoensis have not been found in Japan. As such, some researchers have proposed that Prunus × yedoensis is not a naturally occurring hybrid, but instead was possibly selected for and introduced to cultivation by an unknown cultivator in Somei, which was considered to be the center of horticultural activities in 19th century Japan. This hypothesis is further supported by the fact that P. × yedoensis was first seen in public spaces, such as parks, in the late 18th and early 19th century in Japan.

No matter the parentage, the Yoshino cherry was first introduced in the United States in the early 20th century, where it has remained quite popular ever since.  Notably it is the most common Prunus species in the tidal basin in Washington D.C, celebrated during the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. This collection was formed following a gift of thousands of cherry blossom trees, of which Prunus × yedoensis was the most abundant, to the city from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. This gift was a major undertaking that spanned several years and even included the involvement of First Lady Helen Herron Taft. The first two trees were planted by Mrs. Taft and the wife of the Japanese Ambassador at the time, and these trees can still be seen to this day in Washington.

The Yoshino cherry’s popularity is supported by its charming, fragrant blooms, in addition to attractive, glossy bark with prominent lenticels (a raised, lens shaped area on the bark) P. × yedoensis is also considered a precocious bloomer, as the flowers will emerge before the leaves. The rounded to vase shaped tree can grow to heights of 35 to 40 feet. An excellent specimen tree, P. × yedoensis requires full sun to part shade in moist but well-drained soil. Following the profusion of flowers, P. × yedoensis will produce small black berries that are popular with birds.

IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Photos by Victoria Stewart