Cherry blossoms are some of the most symbolically significant flowers in the world. These exquisitely beautiful blooms are one of the highlights of spring, especially in Japan. Also known as sakura, cherry blossoms are rich in meaning and cultural significance. This article will cover everything you need to know about cherry blossom meaning and symbolism in the language of flowers.
- The Symbolic Meaning of Cherry Blossom – The Essentials
- About Cherry Blossom
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Cherry Blossom
- Suitable Gifting Occasions for Cherry Blossoms
- Cherry Blossom FAQs
- Cherry Blossom Meaning – The Final Word
The Symbolic Meaning of Cherry Blossom – The Essentials
Due to its brief flowering period, cherry blossom often carries the symbolic meaning of impermanence of life. Cherry blossom is also linked to the coming of spring and is representative of renewal. In Japan, the Cherry blossom is also a symbol of beauty and is classed as the unofficial national flower.
About Cherry Blossom
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Cherry blossom refers to the flowers of ornamental cherry tree species such as Prunus speciosa – the Oshima cherry. The Prunus genus features over 400 species of fruiting trees, including both edible and ornamental cherries. These trees are members of the rose family (Rosaceae). Cherry blossoms come in many hybrids and cultivars.
The main feature of cherry blossoms is the breathtaking pink or white blooms. Many cherry blossom trees produce double flowers that last for just a few weeks before falling. Most cherry blossom trees have oval-shaped leaves that turn yellow, orange, and red during the fall.
Ornamental cherry trees can grow between 30 to 40 feet high. The trees typically have dark brown bark with horizontal bumps called lenticels. Cherry blossoms have surprisingly faint scents that are similar to lilac.
History & Origins of Cherry Blossom
Known as hanami, the appreciation of cherry blossoms has been practiced in Japan for centuries. The practice was originally reserved for elite citizens like samurai and members of the Imperial Court. Traditionally, plum blossom is also appreciated in hanami.
During the Heian period, Japanese horticulturalists began creating hybrids and cultivars of wild cherry blossoms to enhance their beauty. Today, hanami borders on a national obsession and has spread around the world.
Hundreds of cherry blossom cultivars and hybrids are grown across the world. It’s thought that the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is the most abundant cherry blossom in Japan. Some of the most popular cherry blossom varieties include:
- Great white cherry (Prunus ‘Tai-haku’)
- Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata)
- Oshima cherry (Prunus speciosa)
- Sargent’s cherry (Prunus sargentii)
- Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis)
In Japan, cherry blossom trees are known as sakura, which refers to flowering ornamental cherries. The genus Prunus gets its name from plum or prune trees, which produce stone fruits. The Latin word ‘prunus‘ is derived from the Greek word ‘prounon‘.
What Regions are Cherry Blossoms Native to?
Cherry blossom trees are native to Eastern Asia – mainly Japan, China, and Korea. Cherry trees grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including parts of Europe, North America, and Russia. These ornamental trees thrive in temperate areas when exposed to the sun.
When are Cherry Blossoms in Season?
The traditional cherry blossom season runs from the end of March to the beginning of May. The fleeting flowering season of cherry blossom is celebrated with cherry blossom festivals across the world. The main festivals occur in Japan, while the US National Cherry Blossom Festival occurs in Washington D.C.
Uses and Benefits of Cherry Blossom
Although most ornamental cherry varieties aren’t grown for their fruit, cherry blossoms still have several uses. Pickled cherry blossoms are used to make sweets in Japan. Pickled cherry blossoms are also used to create a traditional Japanese wedding tea called ‘sakurayu‘.
The leaves of ornamental cherry blossom trees can also be pickled for use in desserts. Traditional recipes that use cherry blossoms include ‘sakuramochi‘.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Cherry Blossom
Significance of Cherry Blossom in Japan
Cherry blossoms are beloved for their beautiful but short-lived blooms. This creates a poignant reflection on mortality and the temporary nature of life. In Japan, the cherry blossom symbolizes a Shinto concept known as ‘mono no aware‘ – the beauty of impermanence.
Cherry blossom is synonymous with Japan, so much so that sakura is considered to be Japan’s unofficial national flower. Cherry blossoms also symbolize beauty due to their stunning pink and white flowers. When cherry blossoms appear en masse, they’re also considered to represent clouds.
The focus on the temporary nature of cherry blossoms also appears in the Japanese concept of ‘natsukashi‘. This refers to a type of joyful but wistful nostalgia for things or times that we cannot return to. Like the fleeting cherry blossom, we’ll never experience those times again – making them even more meaningful.
Significance of Cherry Blossom in China
China also has strong associations with cherry blossom, with several native species of its own. In Chinese culture, cherry blossoms embody beauty, love, and sexuality. Cherry blossoms can also symbolize power and strength in women and are a potent symbol of female dominance.
The Meaning of Common Cherry Blossom Colors
Cherry blossoms usually emerge as stunning pink or white flowers. Both colors have several meanings, so let’s delve deeper into them.
Pink Cherry Blossom Flowers
Pink flowers like cherry blossoms are frequently associated with qualities like love and affection. Rather than purely romantic affection, pink flowers can also symbolize love for our friends and family. In Japan, pink flowers are associated with masculinity, particularly during the samurai period. Pink flowers are also sometimes linked to good health in Japanese culture.
White Cherry Blossom Flowers
White flowers have symbolic meaning in many cultures. In Western symbolism, white flowers are linked to innocence and purity. This creates obvious associations with weddings, and white flowers often feature prominently in most marriage ceremonies.
White flowers can also represent hope and rebirth. This ties in with cherry blossoms, which are seen as a traditional herald of spring. This season has been associated with rebirth and renewal for centuries.
In many Eastern cultures, white flowers are linked to death and are used in traditional mourning. Cherry blossoms reflect the impermanence of life and our inevitable mortality.
Cherry Blossom in Hanakotoba
Many cultures worldwide have their own version of floriography – commonly known as the ‘language of flowers’. Floriography uses flowers to convey particular meanings or messages, especially when given as gifts. Japanese flower language is known as hanakotoba.
Cherry blossom, or sakura as it’s known in Japan, has a range of meanings in hanakotoba. It may refer to qualities like kindness and being gentle. As a message, sakura communicates that someone is a ‘beautiful soul’ or ‘beautiful woman’.
Hanakotoba also sees cherry blossoms as symbolic of mortality and the transient nature of life. Specific varieties of cherry blossom also embody qualities like exceptional beauty, elegance, and refinement.
Cherry blossoms can also be seen in Ikebana – the Japanese art of flower arranging.
Seasonal Meaning of Cherry Blossom
Cherry blossoms bloom in spring, usually from late March to early May. As such, cherry blossoms are believed to represent rebirth and renewal – qualities traditionally associated with spring. The cherry blossom season coincides with graduation in Japanese schools – a time synonymous with new beginnings.
Suitable Gifting Occasions for Cherry Blossoms
Cherry blossom is appreciated worldwide for its stunning beauty and fragility. The gift of cherry blossom is always likely to be well received but is particularly suited for a few occasions.
In hanakotoba, cherry blossoms are used to identify someone as a ‘beautiful soul’ or a ‘beautiful woman’. Pink cherry blossoms can be symbols of both platonic and romantic affection. This means that a pink cherry blossom is an ideal gift for someone you care about, particularly a female partner.
White cherry blossoms can be associated with purity and innocence, making them a great choice as wedding flowers. What’s more, cherry blossoms also make beautiful spring gifts when they’re at their best.
Cherry Blossom Meaning FAQs:
What do cherry blossom flowers symbolize?
Cherry blossoms famously symbolize our fleeting mortality and life’s beautiful but impermanent nature. The cherry blossom is considered to be Japan’s unofficial national flower and also represents beauty.
Do cherry blossoms symbolize love?
In Chinese culture, cherry blossoms are believed to represent love. In Japanese hanakotoba, is also used to identify someone as a ‘beautiful soul’.
Do cherry blossoms come back every year?
Ornamental cherry trees flower every year, producing fleeting cherry blossoms from late March to early May.
How long do cherry blossoms last?
Cherry blossoms don’t last long once they bloom. These trees typically only bloom once the flowers emerge for one or two weeks.
Is cherry blossom toxic?
Cherry blossoms are toxic to cats and dogs, while the seeds and leaves can also be toxic to humans.
Cherry Blossom Meaning – The Final Word
The beautiful cherry blossom is one of the most treasured flowers in the world. These gorgeous pink and white flowers only bloom for a short period. Therefore, cherry blossom is a poignant metaphor for our own mortality and the beautiful but impermanent nature of life. Cherry blossoms can also symbolize love, strength, affection for friends, and innocence.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.