Prunus species, Cherry Trees
When someone mentions cherry trees in the Washington, D.C. region, the popular ‘Yoshino’ cherry trees surrounding the nation’s capital tidal basin are the first to come to mind.
However, the Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Arboretum, located just over the Potomac River, is another great option to enjoy seasonally blooming cherry trees. Throughout the cemetery’s 624 acres, 417 cherry trees brighten overcast April days, bring May-time cheer and one species even delivers a second bloom in November.
Like the tidal basin, ‘Yoshino’ is our most common cherry tree. They surround the Confederate Memorial, and one old specimen graces Section 37, across from the Memorial Amphitheater.
Another welcome sight after the area’s record breaking winter temperatures is the spectacular species of Prunus subhirtella pendula, Weeping Higan cherry. In the photo on the right, it is seen draping the corner of Porter and Grant Drives with its bark darkened by a recent rain.
A vase shaped cultivar of P. subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ is aptly named for its repeat bloom performance in the fall. Look for a small grove of ‘Autumnalis’ in Section 45, within eyesight of the JFK gravesite, and along the steep steps of the Crook Walk as seen in the left photo. Though not nearly as spectacular as the spring time blooms, their fall and sometimes winter season color can create quite a stir.
Near the Woodhull Memorial Flagstaff in Section 35, deep-pink, double flowers of Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’ cover the tree in early May (as seen in the photo on the right). Strong winds blow the double blossoms onto the sidewalk, carpeting the ground below.
The arboretum is home to a native species of cherry tree, Prunus serotin, Black cherry. Forty eight of the less ornamental native cherry are scattered through the cemetery. They support the cecropia moth and tiger swallowtail, and the disdained eastern tent caterpillar. A well-known Delaware entomologist suggests that “if you can learn to tolerate a tent (tent caterpillar) or two in the spring, your cherries will provide valuable bird food all summer long.” Sounds like great advice.
We hope you will enjoy our arboretum’s diverse collection of cherry trees, both for their revered beautiful flowers and their ability to provide an important source of food for wildlife.
Photos by Kelly Wilson, Arlington National Cemetery