Though it’s still a bit cold outside, if you look around, you will see a bunch of fuchsia-colored flowers and pastel pink petals opening up. Those pink flowers tell us that spring is fast approaching and warm weather with bright sunshine is just around the corner.
You might wonder if it already is sakura (cherry blossom) season.
Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but these guys are sakura’s close cousins: the plum or peach blossom.
Quite often, sakura being considered the national flower of Japan, gets the most attention. There are countless poems, songs, stories, designs and yes, people’s names in honor of sakura. But interestingly enough, sakura, plum and peach have a lot in common, and sometimes they are very hard to distinguish at first glance.
So what are the differences?
Here are some pointers you can use to identify them. Then see if you can do it yourself at the end!
What Do Japanese Plum Blossoms Look Like?
The first characteristic of plum blossoms is that they no noticeable stem. Instead, they seem to stick straight out of the branches of the tree. Before blooming, the buds of plum blossoms appear very round. Also, there is just one flower blossom that comes from each bud. If you look closely at the petals, they are oval and have no split at the end.
Where to See Japanese Plum Blossoms
One of the best places to see fragrant plum blossoms in Japan is at Kairakuen in Ibaraki, a prefecture neighboring Tokyo. It is considered to being one of the top landscape gardens in the country with thousands of plum trees of many varieties.
Also, you can find incredible plum trees in bloom in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture. In fact, the city puts on a festival each year until the end of February celebrating its 35,000 white plum trees. As a bonus, Mt. Fuji even joins in on the festivities, appearing the background as the plums are in bloom.
What Do Japanese Peach Blossoms Look Like?
Peach blossoms have shorter stems than cherry blossoms. However, they are more noticeable than plum blossoms. From the stems, two flowers bloom, unlike plum blossoms which only have one. Also, the pink petals are pointier than plum trees, but they still don’t have a characteristic split found at the end of the cherry blossoms. Their usual deeper pink color also distinguishes peach blossoms from the others.
Where to See Japanese Peach Blossoms
You can find acres of peach farms blooming in Yamanashi Prefecture’s Fuefuki City, not far from central Tokyo. In fact, Fuefuki City is known as the Peach City. Peach trees bloom about 2 or 3 weeks before cherry trees.
Wakayama Prefecture also offers some amazing places to view blooming peach trees. One location is Momoyama-cho located in Kinokawa City. As the petals are gently carried away by the wind, they eventually rest on top of the Kinokawa River, coloring the waters with their bright hues.
What do Cherry Blossoms Look Like?
Cherry blossom trees or sakura trees are likely Japan’s most recognizable flowers. Cherry blossoms have a longer stem and can have several blossoms sprouting from one bud. Though there are over 54 varieties of cherry blossoms with different colors, petals have a unique split at the end, which easily distinguishes them from plum blossoms and peach blossoms.
Where to See Japanese Cherry Blossoms
In spring, it’s hard to walk down any street in Japan without finding a beautiful cherry blossom in bloom. Since cherry blossoms appear all over the country, it’s hard to recommend just one or two places. Usually you can find sakura trees around famous temples and shrines around Japan, so you can experience Japanese culture along with the scenery.
However, if viewing cherry blossoms is your main purpose for traveling in Japan, you should really pay a visit to Mount Yoshino, or Yoshinoyama, in Nara Prefecture. Known as one of Japan’s most famous cherry blossom viewing spots, the slops are covered in puffy, pink sakura trees that can be viewed from the mountain.
What Are the Main Differences between Cherry Blossoms, Plum Blossoms, and Peach Blossoms?
Generally speaking, plums bloom earlier than its counterparts. But depending on the climate and location, flower seasons vary. In the Tokyo area, plum blossoms can be enjoyed in mid-February. Then comes the peach blossoms in March and cherry blossoms start to bloom in late March to early April.
For Plum Blossoms
– There is no stem
– Round petals
– Blossoms one flower per knot
For Peach Blossoms
– Stem is short
– Pointy petals
– Blossoms two flowers per knot
For Cherry Blossoms
– Stem is relatively long
– Elongated split-end petals
– Blossoms in a cluster form
So let’s test your powers of investigation!
Can you identify them correctly?