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There are over one hundred cherry tree varieties in Japan. A few of them are wild varieties native to Japan's forests, such as the Yamazakura, but the large majority of them have been cultivated by humans over the centuries for decorative use in gardens and parks. By far the most popular cherry tree variety today is the particularly pretty, cultivated Somei Yoshino.

There are several characteristics differentiating the many cherry tree varieties. Some of the obvious ones, that can also be easily recognized by beginners, are listed below:

Number of petals

Most wild trees, but also a lot of cultivated tree varieties, have blossoms with five petals. However, some species have blossoms which consist of ten, twenty or more petals. Trees with blossoms of more than five petals are called yaezakura.

Color of the blossoms

Most varieties produce light pink to white blossoms, but there are also cherry trees with dark pink, yellow or green blossoms. Furthermore, the color of some varieties' cherry blossoms may change while they are in bloom. For example, a blossom may open as a white flower and change color to pink over the course of a few days.

The fresh leaves

In the case of early blooming trees, the fresh leaves usually do not appear until after full bloom, which gives the trees an attractive, homogeneous look while they are in full bloom. In case of later blooming trees, the leaves usually appear before the blossoms, giving the trees a more heterogeneous look. Furthermore, the color of the fresh leaves differs between the varieties. In most cases, the fresh leaves are green, coppery brown, or something in between.

Form of the tree

Cherry trees display various growing habits and come in different shapes and forms: triangular, columnar, V-shape, weeping, flat-topped, etc. Weeping cherry trees are called shidarezakura.

Time of blooming

Most cherry tree varieties carry blossoms in spring. Yaezakura, i.e. cherry trees with blossoms of more than five petals, are typically the last ones to open their blossoms, with blooming periods about two to four weeks after most five-petaled species. Some extreme varieties bloom in late autumn and during the winter months. Read more about when cherry trees are in bloom.

Most common cherry tree varieties

Somei Yoshino (Yoshino Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

Yamazakura

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

Shidarezakura (Weeping Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: early April

Some early flowering cherry tree varieties

Kanzakura

Average blooming period in Tokyo: late February to mid March

Kawazuzakura

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid March

Kanhizakura

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid to late March

Some late flowering cherry tree varieties

Ichiyo

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid April

Ukon

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid April

Kanzan

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid to late April

Fugenzo

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid to late April

Shogetsu

Average blooming period in Tokyo: mid to late April

Kikuzakura (Chrysanthemum Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: late April, early May

Jugatsuzakura (Autumn Cherry)

Average blooming period in Tokyo: October to January and spring