If you’ve walked by one of the sakura trees in Rittenhouse Square, the Horticultural Center, along the river, or scattered throughout Philly in the past couple weeks, you may have seen some small pink blossoms, seemingly months early. While a cold snap followed by a warm spell–the kind of erratic weather we’ve been seeing a lot of lately–can induce an early bloom (Jen Carlson at New York’s website Gothamist wrote around this time last year of the same early blooms coming to Central Park and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens), that doesn’t mean it’s time to start worrying about the display at this April’s Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival!
The many species of cherry blossom (such as the Ooshima-zakura, a tree native to Japan’s Izu Ooshima island and Isu Peninsula, or Somei-Yoshino, a hybrid likely born of Ooshima-zakura and another variety) do include a few varieties that may bloom in winter! Some of these species are known as Fuyu-zakura (winter cherry blossoms), which according to Wikipedia “begin to bloom in the fall and continues blooming sporadically throughout the winter.” One such species that may bloom in the winter is the Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’, which may bloom in mild periods of weather from autumn to spring.
If any brave botanists out there see a blooming sakura tree, take a picture or two, and can identify just which species it is, we invite you to write to us and let us know! That way, we can say for sure whether we have a few Fuyu-zakura out there, or if this is just a symptom of the weather. In the meantime, as out of season as it may be, we get to offset this winter gloom with a few early blossoms!