The Last Sakura Blossoms


Vancouver’s 10th annual Cherry Blossom Festival will run from April 2nd  to 29th this year. The city is famous for its thousands of cherry trees that line residential streets and parks with  pink blossoms. This annual celebration marks the reawakening of reproduction and new life in our community.

This year, Vancouver has had a very early spring – three weeks earlier than last year. I’ve been enjoying the view of the various blooming trees on my walk to work for the last month! We also had warmer than normal temperatures in 2010 for the Vancouver Olympics. Of course, that was by special request by Tourism BC. 🙂

It is customary for cherry trees to flower around the spring equinox – which was March 20th. This year the first local cherry trees began to appear in mid-February.  These blossoms, although extremely beautiful, are very delicate. Their fleeting life only lasts about 10 days.

sakuraCherry Blossom Festival Events

With 2015 being the 10th Anniversary of the Cherry Blossom Festival, there will be a limited quantity of quality ornamental cherry trees available for sale throughout 2015. The trees can be picked-up in spring 2016 at VanDusen Botanical Garden.

For obvious reasons, this year the Festival organizers have had to keep on top of the bloom situation. It is still not too late to catch a few neighborhoods with current blooms and catch a little transient beauty before it is completely gone. For those who would like to partake in community events, an updated calendar is also published online.

The Bike the Blossoms event has been moved forward, however many events continue as planned such as the free family “Cherry Jam” event that kicks off the annual Festival. This takes place in the concourse of the Burrard Street Skytrain station. Others may wish to take in Sakura Illumination, Sakura Night and the Sakura Days Japan Fair.

Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Trees

The first cherry trees (Sakura) arrived in Vancouver from Japan in the 1930s. Today, more than 37,000 Japanese cherry trees turn the city pink each spring. The original 500 cherry trees were given to Vancouver as a present from the mayors of Kobe and Yokohama. This gift was to honour the Japanese-Canadian soldiers who served in World War I. Since then, thousands more trees have been planted. This includes an additional 3,000 trees that were planted in 2011 to commemorate Vancouver’s 125th anniversary.

Vancouver boasts 35 cherry tree varieties throughout the city. These trees do not produce fruit and have been cultivated for ornamental use. Last year an excellent guide book featuring the different kinds of cherry trees across the city was officially launched during the festival. Ornamental Cherries in Vancouver by Douglas Justice. It is an excellent guide

On average ornamental cherry trees live about 80 years and “city lifespans” can average just 25-30 years owing to pollution and other issues. This means Vancouver has a lot of geriatric cherry trees to manage. It would seem easy enough to replace older trees with new ones – except for one problem.  Quarantine regulations designed to prevent the spread of viruses to commercial cherry trees prohibit saplings from being imported from Japan.  Some of the rare varieties of trees from Japan are virtually impossible to replace.

sakuraSakura – Cherry Trees

Cherry blossoms are Japan’s national flowers and the trees are known as “Sakura” in Japanese. The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. In their native land, the Sakura is highly esteemed. Japan’s samurai culture admired the blossom due to their short-lived lives. The blossoms also were a symbol of simplicity, spring, innocence, hope and humility.

In the Japanese culture, the flower serves as a reminder of mortality and humanity knowing that the life of a human being can end anytime just like the flower. The cherry blossom exemplifies this human condition, making people realize that life is short and that they should live it well.

Cherry Blossom Facts

  • Single flowers have 5 petals
  • Semi-double flowers have 6-10 petals
  • Double blossoms have 10 petals or more
  • Chrysanthemum cherry blossoms can have 100 petals
  • Some cherry trees will have a fragrant almond scent
  • Picking “sakura” (cherry tree) petals or branches is strongly discouraged for cultural and religious reasons. Falling sakura petals represent the reincarnated souls of warriors who fell in battle
  • The transience of the blossoms, the extreme beauty and quick death, has often been associated with mortality
  • Full bloom (mankai) is usually reached within about one week after the opening of the first blossoms (kaika)
  • Within one to two weeks the blooming peak is over. Strong wind and rain can shorten the blooming season.
  • Cherry blossoms are a prevalent symbol in Irezumi, the traditional art of Japanese tattoos
  • 8 ways to tell a cherry blossom from a plum blossom

Cherry_blossoms_in_Vancouver_3_cropCherry blossoms may only last two weeks, but they always return. Enjoy the remainder of the cherry blossoms that are on display around the city. If you missed any, here are 44 photos of early spring cherry blossoms in Vancouver.

For more information have a look here – History of the Cherry Blossom Trees and Beginners Guide to Cherry Blossom Viewing in Vancouver

“In the cherry blossom’s shade there’s no such thing as a stranger.”  

~Kobayashi Issa, Japanese poet and lay Buddhist priest

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