Prunus serrulata

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Prunus serrulata
Münster, Park Sentmaring -- 2016 -- 1767.jpg
Japanese cherry Prunus serrulata – Park Sentmaring, Münster
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Subgenus: Prunus subg. Cerasus
Section: P. sect. Cerasus
P. serrulata
Binomial name
Prunus serrulata
  • Cerasus serrulata (Lindl.) Loudon
  • Prunus angustissima Nakai
  • Prunus chikusiensis Koidz.
  • Prunus heteroflora Miyoshi
  • Prunus jamasakura Siebold ex Koidz.
  • Prunus koidzumii Makino
  • Prunus leveilleana Koehne
  • Prunus mutabilis Miyoshi
  • Prunus ogawana Makino
  • Prunus paramutabilis Nakai
  • Prunus pudibunda Koidz.
  • Prunus rotundipetala Nakai
  • Prunus sieboldii Koidz.
  • Prunus sontagiae Koehne
  • Prunus superflua Koidz.
  • Prunus tenuiflora Koehne
  • Prunus tokugawana Makino
  • Prunus veitchii Koehne
  • Prunus mesadenia Koehne
  • Prunus quelpaertensis Nakai

Prunus serrulata or Japanese cherry,[1] also called hill cherry, oriental cherry, East Asian cherry, is a species of cherry native to China, Japan and Korea, and is used for its spring cherry blossom displays and festivals. Current sources consider it to be part of a species complex with P. jamasakura and P. leveilleana, which have been reduced to synonyms.


Prunus serrulata is a small deciduous tree with a short single trunk, with a dense crown reaching a height of 7.9–11.9 metres (26–39 ft). The smooth bark is chestnut-brown, with prominent horizontal lenticels. The leaves are arranged alternately, simple, ovate-lanceolate, 5–13 cm long and 2.5–6.5 cm broad, with a short petiole and a serrate or doubly serrate margin. At the end of autumn, the green leaves turn yellow, red or crimson.[2]


The flowers are produced in racemose clusters of two to five together at nodes on short spurs in spring at the same time as the new leaves appear; they are white to pink, with five petals in the wild type tree. The fruit of the prunus serrulate/Japanese Sakura, the Sakuranbo, has differences to the prunus avium/wild cherry, in that sakuranbo are smaller in size and are bitter in taste to the wild cherry; the sakuranbo is a globose black fruit-drupe 8–10mm in diameter. Owing to their bitter taste, the sakuranbo should not be eaten raw, or whole; the seed inside should be removed and the fruit-itself processed as preserves.

Because of its evolution, the fruit of the prunus serrulate/Japanese Sakura, the Sakuranbo, developed merely as a small, ovoid cherry-like fruit, but it is not more developed as a small amount of fleshy mass around the seed within; as the prunus serrulate/Japanese Sakura was bred for its flowers, the tree does not go beyond going through the initial motions of developing fruits but they will not ripen and will be incomplete, not producing more flesh surrounding the seed. They simply will not ripen the way regular cherries, bred for the fruit, will do.


Prunus serrulata is widely grown as a flowering ornamental tree, both in its native countries and throughout the temperate regions of the world. Numerous cultivars have been selected, many of them with double flowers with the stamens replaced by additional petals. Many of these cultivars were born as multiple interspecific hybrids based on the Oshima cherry, an endemic species in Japan. The oldest cultivars based on Oshima cherry, such as Fugenzou (AKA Shirofugen or Albo-rosea) and Mikurumakaishi, were born in the Muromachi period, while many others, including kanzan, were born in the Edo period.[3][4]

In cultivation in Europe and North America, it is usually grafted on to Prunus avium roots; the cultivated forms rarely bear fruit. It is viewed as part of the Japanese custom of Hanami.

Varieties and cultivars[edit]

There are several varieties:

  • Prunus serrulata var. hupehensis (Ingram) Ingram. Central China. Not accepted as distinct by the Flora of China.
  • Prunus serrulata var. lannesiana (Carrière) Makino (syn. Cerasus lannesiana Carrière; Prunus lannesiana (Carrière) E. H. Wilson). Japan.
  • Prunus serrulata var. pubescens (Makino) Nakai. Korea, northeastern China.
  • Prunus serrulata var. serrulata (syn. var. spontanea). Japan, Korea, China.
  • Prunus serrulata var. spontanea (Maxim.) E. H. Wilson (syn. Prunus jamasakura Siebold ex Koidz.)

Some important cultivars include:

Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan' in bloom at Jardin des Plantes, Paris, France
  • 'Amanogawa'. Fastigiate cherry, with columnar habit; flowers semi-double, pale pink.[5]
  • 'Kanzan'. = 'Sekiyama', 'Kwanzan', or 'Kansan'. Kanzan Cherry. Flowers pink, double; young leaves bronze-coloured at first, becoming green.[5][6][7]
  • 'Kiku-shidare'. Cheal's Weeping Cherry. Stems weeping; flowers double, pink. Tends to be short-lived.[5]
  • 'Shirofugen'. = 'Shiro-fugen'. Flowers double, deep pink at first, fading to pale pink.[5][8]
  • 'Shirotae'. Mt. Fuji Cherry. Very low, broad crown with nearly horizontal branching; flowers pure white, semi-double.[5][9]
  • 'Tai Haku'. Great White Cherry. Flowers single, white, very large (up to 8 cm diameter); young leaves bronze-coloured at first, becoming green.[5]
  • 'Ukon'. = 'Grandiflora', P. serrulata f. grandiflora Wagner. Green Cherry. Flowers semi-double, cream-white or pale yellow. Young leaves light bronzy-green. Fall leaf color can be purple or rusty-red.[5][10]
Prunus serrulata in Ponta Grossa, southern Brazil. Flowering in this region occurs in the middle of winter.



  1. ^ "BSBI List 2007". Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-01-25. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Toshio Katsuki (2015). Sakura pp.86-95. Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4004315346
  4. ^ "Origins of Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus subgenus Cerasus) cultivars revealed using nuclear SSR markers". Shuri Kato, Asako Matsumoto, Kensuke Yoshimura, Toshio Katsuki etc. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Arthur Lee Jacobson. "Plant of the Month: April 2005: Japanese Sato zakura in Seattle: Prunus cultivars". Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Prunus 'Kanzan' AGM". Plant Selector. Royal Horticultural Society. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Prunus 'Kanzan'". Missouri Botanic Garden. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  8. ^ "Prunus 'Shirofugen'". Plant Selector. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Prunus 'Shirotae'". Missouri Botanic Garden. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Prunus 'Ukon' AGM". Plant Selector. Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 30 March 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]