Cherry Blossoms

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry blossoms!
~Matsuo Basho

In Basho’s home country of Japan there are over one hundred varieties of cherry trees. The most popular cherry tree in Japan is known as Somei Yoshino.  The Somei Yoshino was heavily cultivated in Tokyo during the Edo Period, which is also the time that Basho was alive and writing haiku. Somei Yoshino trees have a slightly pink, almost white, 5-petaled flowers. Their appearance is particularly intense thanks in part to the fact that their fresh leaves do not emerge until after the peak of the flowering season.(1)

This intense nature of the spring cherry blossom bloom could explain why Basho also wrote this haiku:

A lovely spring night
suddenly vanished while we
viewed cherry blossoms
~Matsuo Basho

The Japanese have been celebrating the blooming of the cherry blossom for over a 1,000 years with a tradition called  hanami. Hanami means “viewing flowers”. This tradition started with aristocrats gathering together to look at the flowers, write poetry, and create art.  Today the tradition continues but has been adapted to meet modern times with cook-outs, picnics, and sake. (2) 


Pin Cherry Blossoms

Earlier this week I was walking around the neighborhood and noticed the Pin Cherry blossoms.  The Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) is slender and sometimes shrub like tree. This tree is a member of the Rosaceae, or Rose Family, family and has small, white with five petal flowers that grow in clusters of five to seven.(3)  The bark of this tree is smooth and shiny with orange lenticels.(4)  As the first flowering trees in our area, I was drawn to their presence. Then, as I sat with the tree I was reminded of the symbolic nature of the tree. 

Cherry blossoms represent a time of renewal.  Their vibrant blooming in early spring reminds us that life continues after winter and we should come out and celebrate.  However, their short lifespan also reminds us of the impermanence of  all things.  Cherry blossoms usually only last for about two weeks before they start to fall away. But as the flowers begin to drop, the cherries soon take their place. These small fruits become food for other animals and the seeds for new trees. What has passed, becomes reborn. The whole cycle of life is captured in this one flower.

As I write these words, I am brought back to Basho’s haiku. 

How many, many things
They call to mind
These cherry blossoms!
~Matsuo Basho

I am also spurred to write my own lines:

I see the cherry blossoms
and think of all the roads yet travelled
Connected through time and space
by little white flowers

Resources

  1. Cherry Tree Varieties
  2. Everything to Know About Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festivals
  3. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
  4. Lenticel on Wikipedia 
  5. Haiku Poetry About Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

13 thoughts on “Cherry Blossoms

Add yours

  1. Interesting post, combining haiku with information about Japanese culture and cherry blossoms. There is a pretty park in my area that is full of cherry trees. They have held cherry blossom festivals in past years with some Japanese arts and customs. I’m not sure that they held one this year, and I missed out on visiting during the peak cherry blossom time. I still enjoyed seeing cherry blossoms elsewhere and even on our own weeping cherry tree.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for the comment! I haven’t yet to see a cherry blossom festival. I bet it is pretty amazing when all the trees are in bloom. Hopefully, they will have your local festival next year.

      1. You’re welcome. Not sure where you’re at, but I have been reading about a park in Toronto that is full of cherry trees. Hoping to make it there at some point.

  2. My wife and I have some huge British cherry trees in our eco-garden. They are native and some 30m high… we have five of them, and they are really popular with the birds soon! We have planted bird cherry (Prunus padus) too, but they are mere snippets now. These have lilac-like flowers and, again, are natives.
    Thank you for the articles. nwhwildlife.org.uk

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