The Snowgoose flowering cherry tree belongs to the Prunus genus of ornamental cherry trees. This is the same genus as “Sakura,” (Prunus serrulata), the famous light pink and white cherry blossom trees of Japan, most of which bloom during spring and are a source of great national pride and joy.
The most widely cultivated flowering cherry trees that are planted in the United States represent just a few of the many species that exist, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) research. Prunus serrulata is one of the select few. It is ascribed to the snowgoose flowering cherry tree in some instances, but not exclusively. USDA research findings also refer to the long history of cultivation of flowering cherry trees in Japan, and the confusion that has resulted in some areas over names and origins of these trees.
Prunus serrulata is called the snowgoose flowering cherry tree in some cases, but not all. It is a member of the Rosaceae family. It is a fast growing deciduous tree, reaching heights of about 25 feet, with a spread of between 15 and 20 feet. It has coppery-red peeling bark and dark green leaves. In the spring, the tree is filled with white, bowl-shaped blooms of about 3/4 inches across.
Award of Merit
Interestingly, in the United Kingdom, “snowgoose” is the name associated with Prunus umineko, a 1928 Award of Merit winner. Horticulturists describe it as a medium-sized tree with white blossoms and suited to an urban environment. This version of the snowgoose tree is a cross between Prunus incisa and Prunus speciosa. According to horticultural records, Prunus incisa is originally from Hondo (now Amakusa) in Japan and has a history dating back over 100 years. Prunus incisa is commonly called the fuji cherry.
In Vancouver, Prunus umineko characterizes a flowering cherry tree used in street plantings, and commonly referred to as “seagull.” It is described as a cross between Prunus incisa and Prunus jamasakura. This tree blooms in April and its white blossoms flower on a narrow, vase-shaped crown.
Flowering cherry trees first arrived in America in the mid-1850s. They grew in popularity after 1912, when U.S. First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Vicountess Chinida, wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first two of thousands in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C.. Prunus serrulata trees were among them. They were gifts of friendship from the people of Japan and have become the main attraction of an annual Cherry Blossom Festival.
Today, Prunus serrulata flowering cherry trees are part of street, commercial and residential landscapes. The U.S. National Arboretum has an ongoing program to develop new cultivars of flowering cherry trees through breeding. The parallel goals are to produce trees with superior ornamental features which are disease and pest resistant, and can withstand environmental stresses.