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Cherry blossoms, often known as Japanese cherry or Sakura, are the flowers of various Prunus or Prunus subg. Cerasus trees. They’re also a prevalent species in East Asia, particularly in China, Korea, and Japan. They usually refer to decorative cherry trees, which should not be confused with cherry trees that bear edible fruit. It is considered Japan’s national flower.
Cherry tree species in the wild are mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere. Cherry trees for decorative purposes are classified in the genus Prunus, which has roughly 400 species in Europe and North America, according to the mainstream classification. Ornamental cherry trees, on the other hand, are classified in the genus Cerasus, which has roughly 100 species split from the genus Prunus, and does not contain Prunus salicina, Prunus persica (Peach), Prunus mume, and Prunus grayana, among others. However, there were few wild cherry trees in Europe and North America with huge blossoms appropriate for cherry blossom viewing.
Many of them were unlike the conventional cherry tree forms and blooms that people currently associate with cherry blossom viewing. There has been a tradition of viewing plum blossoms in mainland China since ancient times, and there were many wild cherry blossom species, but many of them had small flowers, and the distribution area of wild cherry blossom species that bore large flowers suitable for hanami was often limited to a small area away from people’s living areas. In Japan, however, Prunus speciosa (Oshima cherry) and Prunus jamasakura (Yamazakura), which bloom huge blossoms appropriate for cherry blossom viewing and grow to be large trees, were found across the country and near to people’s homes. As a result, it is thought that the culture of watching cherry blossoms and cultivar production originated historically in Japan.
Many of the cherry trees that are now being appreciated for cherry blossom viewing are cultivars rather than wild species. Because cherry trees have a changeable feature, several varieties for cherry blossom viewing have been developed, particularly in Japan. Since the Heian period, the Japanese have created numerous cultivars by choosing better or mutant individuals from natural or artificial cross-breedings of wild cherry trees, and then breeding them by grafting and cutting. Because of its favorable characteristics, Oshima cherry, Yamazakura, Prunus pendula f.ascendens (syn, Prunus itosakura, Edo higan), and others that grow naturally in Japan are easy to mutate, and especially Oshima cherry, which is an endemic species in Japan, tends to mutate into double-flowered, grow fast, have many large flowers, and have a strong fragrance; therefore Yoshino cherry and Kanzan are two typical cultivars whose parent species is Oshima cherry; Yoshino cherries are widely planted in Asian nations, while Kanzan is widely planted in Western countries.
Collingwood Ingram, an Englishman, gathered and researched Japanese cherry blossoms in Europe from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, creating numerous attractive varieties, and the cherry blossom watching culture began to expand. Cherry blossom gazing became popular in the United States when Japan gave cherry blossoms as a gesture of friendship in 1912.