One of the most coveted sights of spring in New York are the beautiful, soft pink cherry blossoms that fill up the city’s parks and streets for a few weeks each year. Cherished by residents and tourists alike, the trees are in full bloom this April as New York comes out of a grueling pandemic year.
Hoards of people rushed to Central Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, each renowned for their ornamental, carefully cultivated cherry blossoms, as soon as the first one was spotted. Whether it’s for a peaceful stroll through the spectacular “pink snow” or a purposeful selfie adventure, the city’s cherry blossoms have provided much-needed respite and a bit of fun for everyone, heralding a promising spring season.
Cherry blossoms, a flowering tree native to Japan, with deep roots in Japanese culture and tradition, first came to the United States in 1912 as a gift from Japanese residents. Most of the 3,000 or so trees gifted were sent to Washington D.C. and planted around the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, now home to a widely popular cherry blossom festival. New York, on the other hand, spread out its trees across the Upper West Side, including in a large cluster near Riverside Park – now known as Sakura Park. Sakura is Japanese for cherry tree.
Although most cherry trees only have a lifespan of 60 years, some of the original cherry trees from a century ago can still be found along the Central Park reservoir. The city is home to more than 9,500 cherry trees belonging to about 30 different species. The most popular is the Yoshino tree, a variety with whiter, gentler blossoms that are typically the first to bloom. The latest to bloom is usually the Kanzan or Kwanzan species, with darker pink blossoms and bigger petals. Most cherry blossoms change colors as they go through stages of blossom, and avid tree enthusiasts can usually tell exactly how much longer the tree has to live.
What many people don’t know is that each cherry blossom tree typically only stays in bloom for a week or two, which is what makes them so special. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, renowned for their ornamental blossoms, are hosting events all through spring. But while parks are certainly a beautiful place to enjoy the blossoms, skip the crowds and track clusters of the lovely trees across the city with NY City Lens’ cherry blossom map below, built with comprehensive tree data from the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.