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 with its exuberant pink 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.