The Prunus (Plural) of Rotterdam

I once wrote a blog post about my favorite autumn tree, the liquidambar styraciflua, or sweet gum. But what is my favorite spring tree? After much deliberation, with magnolia as runner up, I picked the prunus, the Japanese cherry with its exuberant pink cherry blossom.

Close up of the pink blossoms of a prunus serrulata, a Japanese cherry
Cherry blossom


It is of course disastrous for my image as a tough masculine guy, this prunus adoration. But that image was never that convincing anyway. And in these gender-fluid times: who cares about a guy with a love for pink blossoms.

Branches, leaves and pink blossoms of a prunus serrulata (Japanese cherry) in springtime
Prunus serrulata

Prunus serrulata

There are many types of prunus; Wikipedia lists dozens of them and some of those look very different from the tree I’m talking about. But when I’m referring to the prunus, I mean the prunus serrulata, the Japanese cherry. And by the way, in English the plural for prunus is prunus.

Japanese cherry trees in blossom near the river Schie in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Near Mevlana mosque


As the name suggests, the Japanese cherry originates from Japan and some neighboring countries such as Korea and China. If possible, the Japanese are even more fond of the sakura, as they call the cherry blossom there, than I am. It is seen as a metaphor for life: very beautiful but far too short. Well, they certainly have a point.

Blossoming prunus serrulata on a grass field in Charlois, Rotterdam, near the entrance to the Maastunnel
Charloisse Hoofd


The Japanese cherry used to bloom around my birthday, April 24. Perhaps that explains my prunus worship. But the climate is definitely changing. Winters are getting shorter, spring starts sooner. The flowering period is therefore easily a week or two earlier than during my childhood.

Abundantly blossoming prunus serrulata on a sunny day in spring in Blijdorp neighbourhood in Rotterdam

Red and white

Why is blossom almost always white or red, or an intermediate color of the two, such as pink? Yellow or blue blossoms do not exist, at least not in our regions. The experts I consulted didn’t know either. Perhaps anthocyanin, the pigment that causes the pink color, is easiest to produce by the tree in the springtime sun. Or maybe this color works best for attracting insects. After all, there has to be some pollination going on; pleasing human eyes is only an afterthought for the prunus.

Field with blossoming Japanese cherry trees (prunus serrulata) in a street in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
De Savornin Lohmanlaan


Unfortunately, the flowering season of the prunus serrulata only lasts a week. The rest of the year it is a fairly inconspicuous tree. On the other hand, we appreciate it precisely because the blossoming time is so short. And it’s always a good reason to go out with my camera to capture that ephemeral beauty.

Oddly shaped prunus (Japanese cherry) in a street with historic mansions the the Rotterdam neighbourhood of Kralingen


You don’t even have to leave the city for it. In fact: exotic as it is, you will find the prunus serrulata in the Netherlands almost exclusively in built-up areas: in gardens, parks and as avenue planting. My three favorite places in Rotterdam to spot prunus are the Statensingel in Blijdorp, the Savornin Lomanlaan in Bergpolder and the Schie near the Mevlana mosque. But of course they can be found in many more places; here’s a short tour along some beautiful ones.

Blossoming cherry trees on an industrial estate in Schiedam, The Netherlands
Flowering cherry trees, lichtpoles and harbour cranes at the Dakpark (Roof Park) in Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Three flowering prunus trees on a grassy slope along Hillevliet canal in the southern part of town in Rotterdam, Holland
Flowering cherry tree in spingtime next to Mathenesser bridge in Rotterdam, Holland
Mathenesser bridge
Flowering prunus trees in springtime in zuiderpark in Rotterdam, Holland
Two flowering Japanese cherry trees next to Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam, Holland, with in the background the river Schie and the prison
Van Nelle factory

The end

And before you know it, the prunus have finished flowering and the blossom is on the street. But there is one certainty in life: in about a year there will be another wonderful week.

Fallen blossoms of a prunus serrulata or Japanese cherry tree after the end of the short blooming period
The End…

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