Saturday, April 16, 2011

Friday Field Notes--Peach, Plum, and Cherry

Momo no hana... Prunus persica, peach blossoms
The peach blossoms bloomed this year (and last year, too, if I recall correctly) nearly at the same time as the cherry blossoms, which seems a bit late since they are associated with the Hinamatusri (Doll Festival) in the beginning of March.  This is a problematic state of affairs for my husband, who has a hard time telling cherry blossoms from plum blossoms (in spite of the fact that they bloom at different times), let alone cherry blossoms from peach... I pointed out to him that peach trees often have both pink and  white blossoms on the same tree and that the flowers are much bigger and doubled compared to cherry blossoms.

In fact (occasionally) individual flowers can be bi-color, whereas cherry blossoms tend to be just pink...

Prunus jamasakura
...unless you are in the mountains-- Mountain Cherries tend to be white (Yamazakura).  But you can still tell the difference by looking at the shape of the flowers-- cherry blossoms have five petals and that characteristic notch in the edge of each petal.  Peach blossoms don't have that notch--their edges are smoothly rounded.

a hybrid Weeping Sakura cultivar

But even when the flowers are hybrid doubles, as they are on the weeping cherry in the photo at left...

Weeping Cherry

...the petals still have that characteristic v-notch centered on the edge.  (That's a neighbor's tree--I love poking my nose into other people's gardens to see what's coming up...)

A digression...

I will never walk out of my house without my camera again.  I won't.  We took Cici to the pool today, and as we were standing at the bus stop (next to the river where I took several photos of cherry blossoms in the rain), I saw a bird in one of the cherry trees out of the corner of my eye.  I knew it was something I hadn't seen before and walked behind the bus stop shelter to have a look.  And what to my wandering eye should appear:
 Isohiyodori  (Monticola solitarius)
A Blue Rock-Thrush!! Gah! D'oh!  I stamp my feet in frustration!  Obviously, that photo up there is not mine.  It's a Wiki photo.  Because I didn't have my camera. (...much wailing and smiting and rending of garments ensues...)  Tick in book is not satisfying because I almost grabbed the camera on the way out... and then thought, "Nah..."  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  Thwack!

*sigh* End of digression...
gratuitous photo of peach blossom... because I took a zillion photos
The above digression was followed by a very long pause as I wriggled my way down the rabbit hole of the genus Prunus...

Prunus mume (subgenus Prunus)
Heavens to betsy!  No wonder my poor husband can't keep straight the plums (Prunus mume), which are actually an apricot, which are themselves another member of the Prunus genus...

pink and white... on the same tree
...the peaches (Prunus persica), which are originally from China and not (as the botanical name suggests) from Persia (Dr. Batsch was mislead by the common European notion that peaches were native to Persia)...

Prunus persica (subgenus Amygdala)
...which are themselves classified together with almonds (the seeds-- not nuts!-- of the fruit of the almond tree.  I did not know!) in the subgenus Amygdala (which just means "almond-shaped" in Greek.  That's why that bit in the middle of your medial temporal lobes is called that, because they're roughly almond-shaped. )

What was I talking about?

Prunus x yedoensis, the Yoshino cherry
Oh, yes.  Plums, and peaches, and cherries--the last of which are a hybrid in the subgenus Cerasus that occurs naturally all over Japan.  My poor husband looks at peach blossoms and says "Look at that sakura with pink and white flowers!".  No, sweetie, that's a peach.  The flowers are different, and they bloom differently along the branch.  And the plums look different still...

Plums bloom on small twigs branching off the main branch, often offset.

Since each blossom (or pair of blossoms) has its own twig, this gives the effect of each flower having been carefully placed all along the branch in a sort of orderly disorder.  And, as I've mentioned before, plum blossoms smell good...

 ...and the petals are *rounded*.  No notch.

 Peach blossoms bloom similarly along the branch, but are much larger than plum blossoms...

...which gives peach trees that "fluffy", more filled in, look...

...and petals are, like plums, *rounded*.

Cherry blossoms, on the other hand, bloom in sprays of three or four (even five or six sometimes) from every node.  Think of the fruit--the way cherries with the stems still attached can be connected in pairs (isn't that how you would draw cherries if I asked you to?).

When the sakura aren't quite all the way out, the effect is of pale pink floating clusters...

...and the petals are *notched*.

If you're trying to draw cherry blossoms, draw five pairs of parenthesis and attach each pair with a small v at the top:-))

Compare--peach blossoms in the foreground, cherry blossoms on the mountain behind.  See?  Different:-)  Looking at plums, you notice the individual flowers.  On the peach trees, though, it's the individual branches sticking up like fluffy bottle washers that the eye distinguishes.  And the masses of pale pink sakura--are they mist or are they cloud? 

The cherry blossoms, though, are nearly done... the petals are falling, coming down like snow when the wind is strong, leaving the red-violet sepals among the newly unfurling leaves.

Of course, there's a word for cherry trees in that state-- Hazakura, "Leaf Cherry".  My husband thinks they look messy like that;-))

Gambarimasho, Nihon!


  1. Mo... hazakura ni natteiru..... :-( our cherry trees are becoming leaf cherries too... sigh.... it's sad, because we never really had a warmish day without rain, which means I did NOT get to hanami this year! (Pouting!)

  2. Oooohh--I hate when that happens! This year, though, we've had pretty good weather. Only two rainy days since they started blooming, neither of which were hard rains. And one weekend day of *really* good weather when they were in full bloom! (That was when I took the video I posted in the "Hanami" post). But... no Hanami! *huggies* The pouting is *totally* justified under the circumstances!

  3. Lovely photos. Thank you. But also grrr. I now have Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White stuck in my head.

    Do you remember me mentioning a great BBC docu about dolphins? I've found it on YT, and linked it in my sidebar.

    *Waves to Ann*

  4. Daz-- I aim to please;-)). I don't remember you mentioning a dolphin docu-- but anything about dolphins sounds great to me! *rushes off to check*...

  5. Waaaa!
    I love all these pictures. Did you take these all yourself?
    I have a Japanese project to do over break and it's going to take me forever. I've already been through 5 different drafts but sensei keeps finding more mistakes in it the more I correct it. Plus, typing in nihongo takes a lot of getting used to. Especially when it changes everything to Kanji even when you don't want it to. :/

    Oh, and over the spring break I plan on volunteering at the childrens museum for the Haru-Matsuri. It should be fun!

  6. Hi, Ez! Yup--took them all myself. Except for the bird. Because (*wail!*) I didn't have my camera with me...

    It *does* take a while to get used to typing in Japanese--very slow, I always think. Type word, hit -space- pick Kanji, hit -enter-. Or remember to just hit -enter- if you want it in hiragana. Do you have a button on your PC (or the one you're typing on) where you can change from alphabet to hiragana to katakana? Mine does, but that's probably because I bought it here. Gambare! (what's your project about?)

    And on volunteering-- erai, ne! Ez-san wa honto ni sugoi, yo! Haru-matsuri ga owattara, oshiete, ne! Shiritai:-))

  7. What a delightful botanical disquisition! Now I am going to have to spend a bit of time studying our native choke cherries and black cherries when they bloom here--sometime next month, I hope!

    And I would kill for the chance to see the Japanese avifauna!! WHAT a fantastic looking bird!

    --Diane G.

  8. A delightful post! I love the fact that you write as a sort of stream of consciousness, so we travel the journey with you! I have been taking blossom photos myself in Londinium, but it is soon gone...

  9. Thanks for all the gorgeous pictures of blossoms, although I don't think I could ever remember how to decipher all the different kinds. I'll just wait for the fruit to come in to figure out what kind of tree it is.

  10. Diane-- I wonder whether choke cherries have the same or a slightly different flower?... And I still can't believe I saw a bird that cool and didn't have my camera. *still kicking myself*

  11. Dom--glad you enjoy it! To me it feels like taking everybody on a walk with me...without annoying anybody because I stop so often (only my mother understands about that:-))
    The cherry blossoms are always over *way* too soon! :-(

  12. Diana--I can only remember which is which because I've been looking at them for a long time. Also, I know which trees are where;-)) What's coming up in the Netherlands?

  13. nice idea..thanks for sharing....