The Yoshino cherry, known as Somei-yoshino in Japan, is a hybrid of unknown origin that first was introduced in Tokyo in 1872 and is now one of the more popular cultivated flowering cherries. Yoshino cherry grows quickly to 20 feet, has beautiful bark marked with prominent lenticels but is a relatively short-lived tree. It has upright to horizontal branching, making it ideal for planting along walks and over patios. The white to pink flowers which occur in early spring before the leaves develop are sometimes damaged by late frosts or very windy conditions.
This cherry is a prominent feature of a number of annual cherry blossom festivals. Festivals take place all over Japan between March and May. Viewing cherry blossoms in Japan (hanami) began perhaps 1300 years ago and may also include night-lighting activities called yozakura. In Washington, DC more than a million visitors attend the annual celebration that commemorates Japan's 1912 gift of cherry trees to the United States and Japan. Of the twelve varieties in the original gift, the Yoshino cherry and Kwanzan cherry are the two that now dominate.