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What Are These Bloomin' Trees?

Every February, many streetside trees in El Cerrito and neighboring towns burst forth in luxuriant pinkish white blossoms. Some folks say they're plum, others say cherry. Can you tell us what they are?

Here's a question for any urban tree experts among our readers.

On many a block in El Cerrito and neighboring cities this time of year you can see streetside trees decked out in their cheerful, pinkish white coats of small blossoms.

They bloom every February, faithful heralds of the coming spring.

What are they?

Some people say they're plum, and other people say cherry. A few say cherry plum or vice versa.

If you know, please tell us in the comments. Extra points for the Latin name!

Jeff Lichtman February 26, 2013 at 07:06 PM
They are purple leaf plum trees, AKA Prunus cerasifera f. purpurascens. Some people call them cherry plums because the fruit are about the size and shape of cherries, but they definitely are plums. The book Cornucopia II: A Source Book of Edible Plants has this to say: Prunus cerasifera f. purpurascens - Red-leaf plum, Purple-leaf plum. The fruits are eaten. Attractive ornamental trees with reddish-purple leaves. About the overall species (as opposed to the purple-leaf variety) it says: Prunus cerasifera - Myrobalana plum, Cherry plum. The fruits are cherry-like but somewhat larger, thin-skinned, and with flesh that is soft, very juicy, sweet to subacid and pleasantly flavored. They may be eaten fresh or used for pies, tarts and jam. Southwest Asia, cultivated.
Amy deHart February 26, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Generally it is plum trees that are blooming now. Cherry trees bloom later, usually in March. See http://qjphotos.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/cherry-blossoms-vs-plum-blossoms/ for differences in the flowers.
Lisa Tsering February 26, 2013 at 11:42 PM
thanks for this info!
Charles Burress (Editor) February 27, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Jeff, thanks. This sounds quite definitive.
Charles Burress (Editor) February 27, 2013 at 01:55 AM
Amy, thanks for linking to that blog with the photos. I learned a lot about how to tell the difference between cherry and plum blossoms.
Kathy A. February 27, 2013 at 01:57 AM
There are a LOT of trees starting to bloom now -- in our yard, we have an ornamental plum (pink -- it does not produce fruit) not quite ready, an apricot (?) in full white bloom, a regular plum (just budding), and I'm not sure what else -- we have several young fruit trees. When a tree blooms depends on the kind of tree; blooms start south and downhill, and tend to travel north and uphill. Lots of Japanese magnolias in bloom around town -- pinkish, and not as big as magnolias in the deep South, but very pretty and a good size.

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