Thursday, April 03, 2014

Prunus sequence UK

Prunus 'Shirofugen', 20th April 2014

I've been updating this post for a few years now, and I plan to carry on. Basically it's a list of Prunus taxa (cherries, plums, etc) in the sequence they come into bloom each spring.

I record dates of sightings each year, though I always miss seeing a few species.  The dates are when the earliest individuals of a species/variety is just starting  to flower -- but I mean really starting, not just one or two flowers but a whole branch...  (There's a considerable spread between the earliest and latest individuals of e.g. Blackthorn, Wild Cherry.) All the trees are in Swindon or Frome or Bath or somewhere in between, unless specified.

General notes on each year:

2013: All the early flowerers, except P. cerasifera, were held back by the freezing March and then bloomed all at once.
2014: very early and spread out.
2015: was generally a week or more later. 2016: started incredibly early but then normalized, extending the season.
2017: was early.
2018 was late until mid-April, then a hot spell brought everything out at once, compressing the season: the early varieties were late, and the late ones were early.
2019: early, to begin with: a mild winter and record-breaking heat in late February. But April was cold, slowing everything down and creating some bizarre anomalies in my dates, as sheltered trees could be several weeks ahead of exposed ones.
2020: very early, a mild winter. A couple of cold weeks in March began to restore normality, but hot weather early in April brought all the Sakura cherries out in rapid succession.
2021: A long spell of high pressure in April, with frosts at night and sun in the day, made an exceptionally fine and elongated cherry blossom season. 

Phase I (very early)


Prunus cerasifera (Cherry-Plum)  2014: before the end of Feb. 2015: before March 17th. 2016: Jan 3rd (Apparently due to an exceptionally mild December. This extended rather than advanced the flowering season; there was still plenty of blossom around in April). 2017: Feb 18th. 2018: Feb 13th. 2019: Feb 16th. 2020: Feb 3rd (Facebook Wild Flower Group had recorded it through January).

Prunus spinosa (Blackthorn)  2014 mid-March; continued to mid-April. 2015: March 27th. 2016: Feb 20th. 2017: March 8th. 2019: March 1st (after record-breaking heat in late Feb).2020: Feb 14th.


Winter-flowering cherry varieties (P. subhirtella)
Prunus dulcis (Almond) 2014: mid March. 2015: March 27th. 2016: before Feb 5th. 2019: almost over by March 19th. 2020: February 15th.
Prunus  "Accolade" (hybrid of Winter and Sargent Cherry)  2014: just before equinox, carried on to 1st week of April. 2015: before April 5th. 2016: March 12th. 2017: March 17th. 2019: March 18th. 2020: A few flowers from February 3rd; fully out March 8th. 2021: March 20th.

Phase 2  (early,  before the first P. serrulata-derived ornamental cherries)


Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)  - 2014: equinox. 2019: March 25th. 2020: March 27th.
Prunus avium (Wild Cherry) - 2014: equinox.  2015: April 5th (first) - new individuals still coming into bloom on April 19th) . Individuals vary widely. I've seen exceptionally early flowering on two root-stocks, presumably P. avium, supporting neglected 'Tai-Haku' grafts. I excluded them from the dates given above. 2016: before April 7th. 2017: March 23rd. 2019: March 19th. 2020: March 18th. 2021: March 25th.

Prunus 'Umineko'. 2019: March 20th. 2020: March 24th. 2021: March 25th.


Prunus sargentii (Sargent Cherry) - 2014: equinox. 2015: April 6th, ending abruptly on April 17th. 2016: before April 6th. 2017: before March 23rd. 2019: March 20th. 2020: before March 20th.

Prunus "Spire"   (a hybrid between Sargent and Yoshino cherry, comes into flower between the two) 2015: April 3rd. 2016: before April 2nd. 2017: before March 23rd. 2019: March 15th. 2020: Partially out 8 March, fully out 14 March. 2021: March 20th.

Prunus x yedoensis Yoshino Cherry (Pale pink or almost white) 2014: Beginning of April.  2015: before April 3rd. 2017: before March 23rd. 2019: March 20th. 2020: before March 21st. 2021: March 23rd.

Phase 3 (beginning of April through May)

Prunus serrulata -derived varieties  (Japanese oranamental cherries)

This is the traditional sequence, taken from Alan Mitchell's tree books. In my experience Tai-haku can often be earlier than Shirotae.

1. Shirotae   (2015: April 9th. 2017: March 23rd.2020: March 24th.)
2. Kiku-shidare-zakura (Cheal's Weeping Cherry) (2017: March 30th.).
3. Hokusai.
(About this time, Taoyame... 2017: March 28th. 2021: April 1st.)
4. Tai-haku (aka Tae-haku aka Great White Cherry) (2015: April 9th. 2017: March 26th. 2018: April 19th. 2020: March 25th.)
5. Ukon (2018: April 19th. 2019: March 25th; admittedly an anomalous record, the first blooms of a very sheltered individual in downtown Bath. I also saw a newly flowering 'Ukon' in Frome on April 15th!)
6. Kanzan   (2015: April 17th. 2017: April 6th. 2018: April 20th. 2019: April 6th, but reluctantly... even a week later the trees weren't fully out. 2020: Just starting, April 7th; fully out April 10th.)
7. Amanogawa (2017: April 7th. 2018: April 20th. 2019: April 12th. 2020: April 7th.)
8. Pink Perfection (2017: April 7th. 2018: April 20th. 2019: April 1st; Anomalous; a few lower flowers after beautiful weather -- the next day the weather turned cold and nothing else happened for a week. 2020: April 5th.)
9. Shirofugen (2015: April 22nd. 2017: April 9th 2018: April 22nd. 2020: April 10th. 2021: April 22nd.)
10. Shimidsu (aka 'Shimidsu Sakura', 'Shôgetsu') (2016: May 8th. 2017: April 10th. 2020: April 12th.)


One year (2014) in a bit more detail. 

First week in April:

Sargent Cherry at height, P. 'Accolade' just past its best. P. dulcis virtually over.
Spire and Yoshino at height.
P. 'Umineko' and 'Snow Goose' (see below)
Schmitt's Cherry (see below) (2015: before April 8th. 2017: March 23rd.)
Blackthorn at its height.
Bullace and Domestic Plum.
Wild Cherry nearly at its height.
Shirotae, Hokusai, Tae-Haku.
The first blossom-trees that aren't Prunus but could possibly be confused with Prunus,  start to show up: Amelanchier, Pear, Magnolia.
Other notable plants:  Celandines, Dandelions, Daisies. Daffs. Forsythia. Pussy Willow. Primroses. Grape Hyacinths.

2nd week in April:

'Ukon' just opening (April 7th); 'Kanzan' by end of week.
Cheal's Weeping Cherry was probably out last week, but I only saw it this week.
Blackthorn just past its best, fading on some plants.
Additional Wild Cherry trees continuing to come into bloom. - at its height now.
Prunus avium 'Plena' starting. (2015: April 19th. 2019: April 6th.
Sargent Cherry still blooming strongly at start of week, finished by the end of week.
The earliest crab apples show. Amelanchier very prominent.
Dandelions! Lots of them.

3rd week in April:

'Kanzan' , 'Amanogawa'.
Prunus avium 'Plena'.
Bird cherry (Prunus padus) nearly at height. (2017: March 30th. 2019: April 7th.)
Crab Apples, Pear, Midland Hawthorn.
Cow Parsley starts.

4th week in April

'Kanzan' continues
'Pink Perfection'
Prunus avium 'Plena' at height
'Shirofugen' at height

At this point I lunched it, but here are some observations from May 6th:

Shirofugen over (though saying that, this variety continues to produce a small dribble of flowers right through to June).
Pink Perfection still has a few pretty flowers on it.
Shimidsu (Shôgetsu) still in flower, but past its best. (Unfortunately I've yet to locate one in the Swindon area, and this was the Foster Road one that I saw on a visit to Frome.)
I noticed a Portugal laurel (Prunus lusitanica) in full flower.
Bird cherry (Prunus padus) is still going strong, with some cultivars much later into flower than the others. (2015: April 19th)
The widely used hedging shrub that I think is "Dwarf Laurel" (Prunus laurocerasus 'Otto Luyken') has a long flowering season, starting later than the species plant. It's been flowering through most of April and is still flowering now.


The photos below are from 3rd April 2014. There's always a few Prunus trees that I can't name. The only thing I can say about both of these ones is that they are extremely distinctive.

Mystery Prunus tree 1.

This is about the shape and size of Prunus 'Spire'. The general impression from a distance is that it's whitish, but not the dazzling white of e.g. Tai-haku.  The flowers are single, neat in appearance and noticeably large. They bloom among the emerging fresh green leaves (you don't get the wall-to-wall-blossom effect that you get with 'Spire'). 3. The flowers do indeed emerge white, with golden stamens, but flush with pink from a beetroot centre. Anyway, very nice.

With a certain amount of hesitation, I'm going to plump for this being Prunus 'Snow Goose', though I must say it is not so pure white as I was expecting. It certainly looks similar to Prunus 'Umineko', and I know that 'Snow Goose', which originated in Holland,  is of the same hybrid parentage (P. incisa x P. speciosa).

The main differences seem to be: Size and shape: 'Umineko' upswept, medium-size, a street and estate tree, often on standards of P. avium.   'Snow Goose' more closely upswept and compact, well suited to a small garden. Flowers: 'Umineko' cup-shaped, often nodding; 'Snow Goose', more erect and more open, hence appearing large.

Mystery Prunus tree 2:

This one has a similar shape to the previous, but it's a much taller tree; taller indeed than any other pink cherry I can think of. I've seen it as a street tree and also as a grouping behind a Sainsbury's petrol station.

On an overcast day like today it seems rather a dingy, sad-looking tree. But in a family with so many obvious beauties, this has a certain appeal. The bark is dark but unmistakably cherry-like (i.e. with rings of lenticels). If you can manage to get close to the blossoms, they look quite nice:

The flowers are single, pink, and seem small compared to other cherries, perhaps mainly because of the narrow in-rolled petals, which produces a cogwheel effect.

Ah, found it! This one is Schmitt's Cherry (Prunus x schmittii), of hybrid origin (P. avium x P. canescens). Attractive lustrous bark on young stems, later peeling off in ragged strips, apparently.

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