Cherry Blossoms vs. Plum Blossoms

Yesterday I realized that despite having lived more than 15 years in Japan, I can’t tell the difference between a plum blossom and a cherry blossom. Even more shockingly, my Japanese wife, and many other Japanese people can’t either. They both come in a wide variety of colors, and both blossoms have five petals each.

Of course sakura (cherry blossoms) and ume (plum blossoms, or more accurately, Japanese apricot) do bloom at different times, so if you see them in February you know they’re probably plum blossoms, and if you see them in April, they’re probably cherry blossoms. There are some plum blossoms still on the trees now, though, and there were early-blooming cherry trees a few weeks ago, so it’s not always easy, and you often see them misidentified on various websites and blogs.

Anyway, I did some research, and here’s how to tell the difference:

1. Look at the stems. Cherry blossoms are usually connected by a long stem to the branch. Plum blossoms are usually (but not always) stuck right on the branch.**

Cherry blossoms

2. Plum blossoms tend to be round, whereas cherry blossoms are oval, and tend to have a little indentation at the top of the petal.

Plum blossoms.

Cherry blossoms

This is my son Matthew enjoying some early-blooming cherry blossoms called higan zakura in Ueno Park yesterday.

By the way, these photos (except the last one) come from the excellent stock.xchng website, an excellent place to find free photos on the Web.

** Sorry, originally I had posted this photo as an example of cherry blossoms that are off the branch. I have been informed in the comments section, however, that they are actually cherry-plum blossoms. Not all plum blossoms grow on the branch, so you have to be careful.

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117 Responses to “Cherry Blossoms vs. Plum Blossoms”

  1. jenuy12 Says:

    i love cherry blossoms and i’d love to see one

  2. foolsprints Says:

    I love blossom. Always makes me feel more hopeful. Spring is here! I didn’t even know that Plums blossomed!

  3. Star (Sarah) Says:

    Very helpful! I never thought of the difference before.

  4. nadiaqh Says:

    Thank for the blog. I always wondered and now seeing the stems on the cherry blossoms it is easier to identify. I LOVE these flower blossoms and the photo of your son is adorable!

  5. Jane Gelberg Says:

    I vote for Cherry Blossoms!

  6. knoxblevins Says:

    Those pictures are so pretty. I love cherry blossoms. Thanks for sharing the info, now I can look smarter if someone says, “hey look at the cherry blossom.” I can be like, “man, that’s a plum blossom can’t you tell.” haha

  7. Slamdunk Says:

    Good post. It is good to learn something while blog surfing.

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    [...] Festival 2010 TCM’s Classic Movie Blog Top 10 Places You Don’t Want To Visit Listverse Cherry Blossoms vs. Plum Blossoms Quirky Japan Blog I think the word you’re looking for is “possible” The magical mystery land of community [...]

  9. {JeLisa} @ Blogging Ever After Says:

    Thanks – I’d always wondered at that difference!

    Cute kid. :)

  10. Ji Says:

    amazing!
    loved it very much!

    cheers!

  11. sakurayume Says:

    That was a very fascinating post, and lovely photos too! I’ll add you to my blogroll and be sure to keep reading!

  12. justalittlepiece Says:

    Oh wow. I’d never tell the difference. Both are beautiful though.

  13. cliodesign Says:

    Thank you for letting us know the differences between the two tree blossoms. I have both kinds in my yard and I am going to take a closer look at them when they begin to bloom this spring.

    Take care,

    Carol

  14. Elise Says:

    Beautiful photos! I feel educated. :)

  15. layla Says:

    omg i wanna be famouse and get a website about fantage

  16. theadventuresofworldwind Says:

    Very beautiful!
    I’m going to Japan in May, and I can’t wait!
    I love Japan so much.

    Take care x

  17. This Much Says:

    Number one is a plumb blossom. It looks like during the summer. http://www.donnan.com/images/treeThCldPlum.jpg

  18. Shweta Says:

    that last pic is so cute!

  19. vixstar1314 Says:

    hi..thanks for the information.
    Actually I will be going to Tokyo on Saturday so can’t wait to see the sakura blossom for the first time ever. Hopefully by then its still there..
    Oh and your son is very cute..

  20. astrodrom Says:

    I love all kind of blossom. Your post is so inspiring.

  21. madsilence Says:

    The Kenrokuen Garden currently has a lovely display of ume blossoms. The cherry blossom forecast predicts we’ll see the first sakura blossoms on March 31st in Kanazawa. Thanks for the help in distinguishing sakura from ume.

  22. Kaye Lopez Says:

    the last photo is interesting! nice pictures…

  23. Geotravel Says:

    I have always loved cherry, plum, and apple blossoms. It made me so happy today when I opened up Word Press to see such beautiful pics on your blog. Thank you.

  24. Delemont Says:

    Love them all!

  25. mdilloway1 Says:

    So beautiful! Nothing like that here in Hawaii.

  26. yuriyuda Says:

    oow.. seriously that’s very beautiful :)..
    how lucky you are, live in a heaven-like place like that,,

  27. dawnraids Says:

    those are beautiful. i was actually wondering about the difference. i just want to clip them and take them inside but i never do!! what do the japanese eat to make them the healthiest people on earth?

  28. creativepotager Says:

    I always look to see if there is a little tag still on the tree… now when there isn’t I will know what to look for:)

    Great post! Terrill Welch

  29. marco Says:

    At this time, in my garden (center Italy) I only have plums in flower, cherry blossom will come later on. Actually I was used since long time just to look at the color … while there are many other differences.
    Marco

  30. manggae Says:

    that’s awesome!
    I wanna see it someday :)

  31. Alan - secretdalmatia Says:

    Awesome! Although, my favorite is almond blossom in late January… perfect sign of Spring that is just around the corner

  32. osakainsider Says:

    Great post, and nice photos, too! I always just based it on the time of year they were blooming. I never thought about how to tell the difference visually.

  33. Moranna Says:

    Lovely pictures of the blossom. I live in Spain and we are into Almond blossom time as well as Cherry and wild plum. Almond blossom was late this year but has been beautiful in our area of Spain, which hasn’t suffered from the bad winter that some parts of Spain have had.

  34. aeshahadlina Says:

    I just love cherry blossoms and plum blossoms. Especially when I love pink. Their structure is beautiful. They are just lovely. My sister is always wondering why I love them so much. Thanks for the amazing fact. ;)

  35. MyBluHorizon Says:

    Absolutely beautiful, thanks for sharing.

  36. الرَّوْح Says:

    ohh! that is so nice!
    I’ve always loved the cherry blossoms, but never knew there is something called plum blossoms.. they both look fascinating!
    thank you so much for sharing this information :)

  37. Lakia Says:

    These look the same… but I love cherry blossoms :) so beautiful and “Springy” lol

  38. parttimecashmillionaire Says:

    As you illustrated spring time in Japan next time you may illustrate autumn in Japan. You know those colourful leaves. I haven’t yet found that colourful in any other places. Does somebody know that colourful equal to Japan or better than?

  39. popscure Says:

    So it turns out that our cherry blossom is a plum blossom! And thanks to you, now I can also call it ume. Love it :)

  40. kendylau Says:

    Lovely! Thanks for sharing the information:)

  41. dressingmyself Says:

    Gorgeous photos. I’ve just been for a long drive on a grey wet day and it has been a joy to see even a picture of blossom.

  42. Crazydanejensen Says:

    I always wanted a cherry blossom tattoo! :)

  43. business thank you cards Says:

    beautiful, my new background

  44. dangerousmeredith Says:

    isn’t your son gorgeous! i lived in Osaka about 10 years ago and I loved cherry blossom time (and momiji, and winter and summer come to think of it).

    doumo arigato!

  45. Tri Says:

    Lovely. The cherry blossoms are so sweet. I’ve capture some too.

  46. madyjune Says:

    Thanks for the info. I didn’t even know plum blossoms existed until I watched about it in a Korean drama. Now that I think of it, maybe I had seen plum blossoms before, but I had mistaken them with cherry blossoms.

  47. carinegroenewald Says:

    Very cool I love the cherry blossoms, I also have some blossom pics from last year spring will post them sometime :-)

  48. june Says:

    Great topic for a blog, such detail (: love the images as well, especially the one of the shadow moving across the face, just delightful.

  49. Anh Tran Says:

    I really like the last picture. Thanks !

  50. giamedia3 Says:

    I love cherry blossoms. Never knew the difference either or for that matter, that plums actually blossomed in the same way. Sweet picture of your little boy!

  51. grey Says:

    i thing ther are the same [ beautiful]
    but i’ll go for Cherry blossoms

  52. Claudine Giovannoni Says:

    All blossom are beautiful!
    Shiroi hana…
    for the jappanese this is the season wich is related to the Shunbun no hi or, for us european “beliwer”, the Εαρινή ισημερία (equinozio di Primavera) a pagan wicca to pay tribute to Eostar patron goddess of fertility.
    Beautiful pictures, this is the first time I visit this blog, I allowed myself to let me notify next posts.
    I wish you a superb spring time
    Serenity :-)claudine
    http://claudine2007.splinder.com

  53. Amy Says:

    Nice blog. good to know

  54. softballgirl78 Says:

    Thank you for this post. They are both beautiful flowers and now I will be able to tell the difference. I think I just generalize them both as cherry blossoms so this was helpful!

  55. Yousei Hime Says:

    Beautiful pictures. Interesting post. Thank you for sharing them.

    • Yousei Hime Says:

      cannot decide which
      is more beautiful–blossoms
      or my smiling son

      Wanted to thank you again for sharing these photos, both the borrowed and your own. I had wondered about the difference in the blossoms as well, so that tidbit of information was a lovely little “a-ha” from you. Enjoy your sakura season.

    • davetiye Says:

      nice flowers and nice pictures. thank you very much

  56. cikpiah Says:

    I have never seen a spring in my entire life. Those blossoms looks like flowers from heaven. Thanks for sharing

  57. Keren Says:

    It is one of my desire to plant a cherry blossom tree here in my backyard, I just don’t know if it will grow here because of the hot temperature. I’ve always wonder what’s their difference because they look the same from afar.Now I understand. Thanks for sharing!

  58. shimlahills Says:

    we have a garden of both, the beauty and the aura they create is just mind blowing. great post wow, must say you are a very creative person.

  59. onebrownrat Says:

    It’s freezing here in nagoya. Wonder if cherry blossom season will come late this year

  60. Decode Says:

    So wonderful flowers :) Very beautiful……..

  61. katewheeler Says:

    Beautiful flowers! And a cute baby :)

  62. laura Says:

    Interesting article and nice photos! Thanks also for including the free photo web source. I have painted cherry/apricot blossoms on some of my ceramic work for many years. I did notice that some grow from little stems while others are on the big branches. Also, that there arean’t usually leaves and blossoms at the same time!

  63. Amanda Says:

    Pretty photographs.

  64. JUST TESTING Says:

    Interesting article and nice photos! Thanks also for including the free photo web source. I have painted cherry/apricot blossoms on some of my ceramic work for many

  65. silentkillerr Says:

    The photographs are pretty! (:
    really want to see the real ones ><"

  66. Sarah Wedgbury Says:

    I thought I was the only one who didn’t know the difference! I am glad that it is so tricky to tell the difference because I thought I should have known better having lived in Japan for four years. Your pointers are great – will try and put them in to practice next time I come across a blossom.

    I believe that another big difference between the two is the length of time that the blossom survives. Plum blossoms tend to be stronger and last longer, whereas cherry blossoms are very fleeting and I think it is this fact which captured the Japanese romantic and poetic nature hence they have cherry blossom viewing but not plum blossom viewing.

    • Kayla Says:

      this is very true. In Chinese culture the Ume blossom is part of the trio “The 3 friends of Winter” because of how well it holds up(the other two being pine and bamboo I believe). The Sakura is portrayed, rightly so, as being so soft and delicate.

  67. Mie-chan Says:

    I love cherry blossoms!

  68. royna Says:

    nice blog…i like your blog
    wennzkie.wordpress.com

  69. Davetiye Says:

    good backround thank you

  70. Nice and New Says:

    Those are some beautiful pictures there! And it’s a lovely post too :)

  71. vixstar1314 Says:

    awww. your son is very cute…
    Thanks for the insightful guide on cherry blossoms and plum blossoms.
    and the pictures are great…

  72. theladyjournal Says:

    These are one of my favorite types of flowers besides hydrangeas Beautiful to get married under the Sakura Trees.

  73. Semboeng Says:

    Must be nice to see all of them bloom at the same time…
    Aww someday I wish I can see them directly

  74. poverty_dieter Says:

    100% fan of cherry blossoms!!! …love the photo of the baby and blossoms! Thanks!

  75. jaclynrae Says:

    Love the pictures!

  76. mmaoracle Says:

    when i was in middle school, between the playing field and the running tracke was loads of cherry blossoms, and on windy days all the pink leaves would fly off, it would look like a pink snow storm

  77. Cherry and Plum Blossoms « Shiteki Na Usagi Says:

    [...] time to time a Freshly Pressed blog catches my eye.  This week it was the Quirky Japan Blog.  The author explained how to recognize the difference between cherry and plum blossoms, and [...]

  78. lifeaftereighty Says:

    Thanks for the lift – loved this.

  79. quatschtronauts Says:

    I think it is unfair the cherry blossom is so much more popular then the plum blossom (I’ve been to sakura-hanami parties, but never to an ume party…)
    The plum has just bad luck, that his “birth-day” date it is too early in the year to sit outside on a plastic blanket!
    Let’s fight for equal rights for the plum blossom!

  80. Suz Lipman Says:

    What a beautiful post to welcome spring. Not only are your pictures wonderful but you’ve helped solve an ongoing mystery for me. Thank you.

  81. Diah Utami Says:

    Very nice pictures of Plum and Cherry blossom. There are many kind of Cherry as well, but all are beautiful, I believe. And your son is soooo cute ;)

  82. sacchankawaii Says:

    arigatooo~~ !!!
    really helping !!

    cute boy ~
    keep up the good work !

  83. ritasecret Says:

    OMG! very beautiful pics ;)
    feels like spring is here :)

  84. Kayla Says:

    Great post! I have a Ume blossom branch tattoo(the website is a link to my flickr photo of it)-and every time people see it(I’m in America) they compliment me on my beautiful cherry blossom/sakura tattoo. I used to correct people, now I don’t bother. However when I went to Epcot and visited ‘Japan’ all the workers there told me how pretty my ume blossom turned out :) I think the biggest thing to look for, as far as illustrations go anyway, is the double pointed tips of the cherry blossom. In real life it can be a little trickier.

  85. Z Says:

    beautiful images:)

  86. ladyserenity92 Says:

    Lovely! I long to see real cherry blossoms. Your son reminded of a story about a Japanese woman and a clueless Amemrican man who was fastanited by an old wives’ tale about when two people stand under a cherry tree. I won’t give away the ‘ending’. :-)
    It’s a very ‘cute’ story!

  87. Davetiye Says:

    Interesting details. Bloosom is one of my favorites. But i didn’t know any information like that.

  88. Andrey Says:

    Great post! I’ve always loved the cherry blossoms !

  89. davetiyesi Says:

    good card thank you

  90. Darla's Hobo Handbags Says:

    I love seeing the cherry blosssoms when I have visited Tokyo in April. They especially look nice in Ikebana.

  91. Craigk8 Says:

    Couldn’t sleep on a layover in Narita and discovered some gorgeous blossoms outside. Thought they might be really early blooming cherry blossoms but now know that it was the plum blossoms that stood out from the night. Thanks for the excellent blog post.

  92. lediarunnels27221219 Says:

    I adore the picture of you little boy. He is SOOO cute! Check out my blog at http://lediarunnels27221219.wordpress.com/. It’s entitled: “Mysterious Japan”. I think you might like it.

  93. there’s something about spring and sakura « middle of nowhere Says:

    [...] Another blog also stated that you can look at the stem. Cherry blossoms are usually connected by a long stem to the branch whereas plum blossoms are usually (but not always) are attached on the branch/twig. [...]

  94. Calais Says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing this, it’s just what I need. I’ve been long wondering how the cherry blossoms differ from the ume. This was very helpful. Also, can you I know around what month do they usually bloom in Japan? BTW, that cute baby against those pretty blooms is picture perfect! Keep posting.

    • qjphotos Says:

      Plum blossoms usually bloom in April. In Tokyo and Osaka, they bloom around the end of March. Down south, of course, it’s a couple of weeks earlier, and in colder places like Hokkaido, they sometimes don’t bloom until the end of April.

  95. İzmir Davetiye Says:

    Very helpful! I never thought of the difference before.

  96. Dugun davetiyesi fransa Says:

    The child in the last picture is so lovely.

  97. Septinus Says:

    What lovely blossoms they are. Plum blossoms earlier than cherry does. Plum blossom is Chinese national flower, while cherry Japan.

  98. Kelsi Says:

    Now how do you tell the difference between the apple blossom?!

  99. black rose Says:

    actually my last name was taken from chinese character for plum fruit, and I always love cherry blossom, but I never ever think that both plum-cherry blossoms have something differ! (a bit embrassing, since I use it as my name!)

  100. rinoacelin Says:

    Your son is adorable! And an informative piece on my favourite flower:)

  101. Ann Kennedy Says:

    What a great post! This is very helpful to me as I am trying to identify old photographs of flowering trees! Thank you so much!

  102. Blossoming Trees Are Lovely, But Maybe Not Quite In The Way You Think | Bernalwood Says:

    [...] sources say they’re not. Sakura happens later in the year, so our sources tell us the pink trees we see now are actually Ume (plum [...]

  103. Anonymous Says:

    since the plum blossom actually originates from China personally, i think Chinese plum or mei flower would be a better “more accurate name” for it.

  104. Paulo Says:

    I guess I won’t care with the names as they are both beautiful! xD

  105. Lona Says:

    Hi there, yup this paragraph iss genuinely pleasant and I have learned
    lot of things from it abot blogging. thanks.


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