February 11, 2020

Plum or Cherry? The easiest way to identify which is which.

Written by Kumiko Toya

Despite the bitterly cold weather in early February, sometimes you see a tree with pretty pink blossoms. But wait a second before yelling “Cherry blossoms!” Most likely they are plums, a symbol of the arrival of spring.

plum 14
Atami Plum Garden in early February

In Japan, plum trees have been associated with hope and vitality. They are often planted in gardens, parks, shrines, and temples to bring good luck. I have a fond memory of the old plum tree in our garden of my childhood home which came into bloom with graceful white flowers in early spring and produced a lot of plum fruits afterwards. My grandmother made pickled plums and plum syrup from them every year which I loved very much.

Plum trees can be found across the U.S. as well, but unfortunately for the beautiful plant, they are often confused with cherry trees, whose blossoms appear several weeks later.

plum tree 2-2 cherry tree1-2

Both plum trees and cherry trees are known for their white, pale pink or fuchsia blossoms. To tell the difference and identify them, you need to come closer to the tree.

1. The Shape of Petal

plum9 cherry 3

Plum (left) and Cherry (right)

There is no split at the end of the petals of a plum blossom.
Cherry blossoms have a small split at the end of each petal.

2. The Bud

plum5 cherry2

Plum (left) and Cherry (right)

A plum bud is separately attached to the tree by a short thin stem.
A cherry bud has several flowers emerging from a single bud.

3. The Fragrance

plum 11

Plum blossoms have a sweet, flowery smell while cherry blossoms have little or no fragrance.

Quiz!! Plum or Cherry ?


cherry 8
plum 15 cherry 10

Now can you guess which is which in these four photos above?
The answers are at the bottom of this page!

In the mood of spring blossom crafts? Check out these Chigiri-e motifs!

Plum and Bush Warbler

Plum Tree

Cherry Blossoms

The correct answers are; (clockwise from top left) Plum, Cherry, Cherry, Plum

How did you do? If you're still confused, look back at the tips above!


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