The riotous blossoms of Kwanzan cherry trees look like dark pink pom-poms, and are among the last cherries to bloom in spring.
We should be able to enjoy them a bit longer; their average peak date is April 15, but like most trees, they got a head start during several temperature spikes we experienced early this year.
As dense as their blossoms are, some trees are blooming at half their usual abundance due to frost damage, according to Klaus Schreiber, Lynchburg’s arborist.
Schreiber, the Lynchburg Tree Stewards and the Department of Parks and Recreation offered a cherry tree blossom walk at Riverside Park on Saturday focusing on five varieties.
In November 2000, the Tree Stewards, Kiwanis and Friends of Riverside Park secured a grant to plant 60 cherry trees in the park for us to enjoy.
The trees are now towering overhead at about 90 percent of their expected height. It is amazing to see how much growth has occurred in just 16 years.
Kwanzans are fast growers and can reach 30 feet in height and width. They produce little to no fruit and are free from insect and disease problems, like most of the varieties in the park.
Kwanzans can be seen throughout the city, including on Court, Commerce and Fifth streets, as well as Oakley Avenue.
Another Japanese variety, Okame, is the earliest bloomer in Riverside Park with an average flowering date of March 15. Now decked in green leaves, these trees have pink flowers that often contrast beautifully in late snow.
Okames can be found on Fifth Street between Harrison and Court streets and in the 1500 block of Taylor.
The next bloomer, with an average flowering date of March 20, is autumnalis, with a pale pink bloom. As its name implies, this tree also blooms in autumn, though its spring output is usually heavier. This tree is both the most cold- and heat-tolerant variety.
Autumnalis can be found on Norfolk Avenue between Rivermont and Quinlan, as well as Fifth Street between Court and Church.
On our walk, we saw some much older cherry trees with white blossoms, remnants of the original cherries planted here.
Another variety still blooming is the Higan weeping cherry, also with pale pink blossoms, which, as its name implies, has drooping branches like weeping willows.
Perhaps the best known cherry is the Yoshino, the favorite cherry tree in Japan and the one visitors to Washington, D.C., enjoy around the Tidal Basin each spring.
The Japanese sent the first Yoshinos in 1910; however, they were infested with insects and disease and had to be destroyed. Japan shipped another 3,000, which took root, and some of the original rootstock has been returned to Japan over the years to keep the lineage alive.
Yoshino blossoms are pale pink, almost white. Their average bloom date in Lynchburg is March 28, and they can be found at the Lynchburg Airport entrance and on Rivermont Avenue.
In other words, you don’t have to drive to D.C. to see spectacular cherries.