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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogSpot the Difference: Are They Cherry Blossoms?

Spot the Difference: Are They Cherry Blossoms?

Anna AyvazyanAnna Ayvazyan
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January 31, 2024
A large tree of cherry blossoms that will help people spot the difference between them and other flowers.

Let’s learn about the different types of spring flowers in Japan! How can you spot the difference between cherry, plum, and peach blossoms? We will also recommend the time to view them for hanami (flower viewing parties). Knowing the differences between varieties can make your cherry blossom viewing experience more fun!

One of the most anticipated things to do in spring in Japan is viewing beautiful spring flowers! But did you know these flowers are not all cherry blossoms? While the flowers may look very similar, they have fundamental differences.

In particular, cherry blossoms, plum blossoms, and peach blossoms are the most common flowers people mistake as being the same. Due to the effect of climate change, it can also be more challenging to differentiate between the flowers. 

Cherry Blossoms 

The cherry blossom season is from mid-March to early May. On average, the cherry blossoms bloom earliest in areas with warm climates, such as Okinawa. In Hokkaido, where spring comes later, the cherry blossoms bloom later. This year, it is anticipated that from late March to mid-April will be the best time to see cherry blossoms throughout Japan. 

Cherry blossom on a bridge.
They look especially gorgeous next to a bridge. Image via Shutterstock

Shape

The cherry blossom, depending on the variety, is characterized by its petals splitting into two at the tip, although the extent of this can vary. The tips have incisions, forming a sharp heart shape. Cherry blossoms typically grow on stalks and in clusters instead of individual flowers on a branch. The leaves flourish from late spring to early summer after blooming. Cherry blossom leaves tend to be green in color and are unfolding. 

Color and Scent

Cherry blossoms in the spring.
“Sakura” means “cherry” in Japanese. Image via Shutterstock

The color of cherry blossoms varies from white to light pink to dark pink. Also, cherry blossoms do not have a strong scent. Some varieties, such as the Yoshino Cherry Blossom, won’t have a smell even if you bring your nose close to the flower. A variety called fragrant cherry blossoms has a strong scent, but these are typically not found in larger cities. 

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Plum Blossoms

Plum blossoms bloom from late January to late April, but some varieties may bloom in mid-December or around the winter solstice. This year, it is anticipated that the plum blossoms will peak throughout Japan between mid-February and early March. Among the three types of flowers, this is the “early spring” flower that blooms the earliest. Many plum blossoms are planted in a northeast direction as they help ward off evil. 

White plum blossoms.
Sometimes plum blossoms are white. Image via Shutterstock

Shape

Although each variety of plum has a slightly different shape, most have round petals. Compared to cherry blossoms, plum blossom petals do not have any splits. 

The stem skin is dark and relatively rough, and the leaves emerge after the flowers have finished blooming. Plum blossoms tend to grow individually on tree branches without any stalks. These leaves are reddish-purple, though some varieties have green leaves.

Color and Scent

Plum blossom sin the spring.
Can you spot the difference between these flowers now? Image via Shutterstock

The color of the flowers ranges from white to red, but even within these, there are complex color changes. For example, some flowers are pink in the bud and then turn white when they bloom. Others are white in the bud and turn pink when they bloom, and some have a pale core, and only the petals are red. Plum blossoms tend to have the most robust scent, which is thought to ward off evil. However, the scent is lovely, similar to jasmine. 

Peach Blossoms

Peach blossoms on a branch.
“Momo” is “peach” in Japanese. Image via Shutterstock

Peach flowers are generally similar to cherry blossoms, and their flowering period is from mid-March to late April. Although they often bloom in the order of peaches to cherry blossoms, the blooming times may overlap depending on temperature and regional differences. It is anticipated the best time to view peach blossoms this year is between mid-March and mid-April. 

Shape

Peaches are often mistaken for cherry blossoms or plums because of the color of their flowers, but their distinctive feature is the pointed tips of their petals. The petals are oval-shaped and sometimes are said to look like teardrops. Another significant difference from other flowers is that the flowers and leaves bloom simultaneously. Peach blossoms tend to grow in pairs from short stalks that sprout from the same branch.

Color and Scent

Pink peach blossoms. Many people can spot the difference between them and cherry blossoms.
Many of them are also pink with at least five petals. Image via Shutterstock

The color varies depending on the variety, but the most common colors are white, pink, and red. Even within the same tree, the colors of the different flowers may be mixed. Peach Blossoms don’t have a strong scent, but the flowers and leaves produce a slightly sweet scent. Some people say the scent is similar to honey and almonds.

Why should I learn to spot the difference between these flowers?

Knowing the difference between these blossoms can help you plan flower viewing parties! While the flowers may seem very similar, they all have unique characteristics from shape to color and scent.

Bright pink peach blossoms.
Many people mistake cherry blossoms for peach ones Image via Shutterstock

Additionally, many wagashi (traditional Japanese desserts) are tied to seasonal blossoms! It can be fun to look at the unique flower designs and be able to distinguish what flower is being referenced. What is your favorite type of blossom? Let us know in the comments below! 

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