Prunus yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino'
Common name: Yoshino Cherry
Prunus yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' is one of the most popular flowering cherry trees grown in Japan and is also the most numerous cherry tree type there. It produces an abundance of fragrant, whitish-pink flowers from March through April, although bloom time is greatly affected by temperature. P. yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' is thought to be a hybrid between Prunus speciosa (Oshima Cherry) and Prunus subhirtella var. ascendans (Edo Higan). From the Edo period to the beginning of the Meiji period, P. yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' was grown by gardeners and craftsmen in a village called Somei. The Yoshino cherry was introduced to Europe and North America in 1902.
Yoshino cherry has a vase-shaped canopy. Its five-petaled flowers are pale-pink in bud, but fade to white as they mature. They are lightly almond-scented. P. yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' grows best in full sun and needs at least six hours of sunlight a day. In shade, there will be fewer flowers. After blooming has finished, fresh green, ovate leaves emerge.
P. yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' fruit is an important source of food for many small birds and mammals. The small black fruit is edible and non-toxic to humans, but due to its bitterness, people don't like to eat it.
The specific epithet means 'of Yedo' (now Tokyo). P. yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' is thought to have originated in the Japanese village of Somei which is on the outskirts of Tokyo.
There are several examples of Prunus yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino' at VanDusen. Most of the photos are of the tree in Bed 103 on the Great Lawn. It was planted there in 2015.
Text and photos by Kumi Sutcliffe.