What’s the most beautiful tree you’ve ever seen? Are you picturing the California redwoods? Many might think of trees with red or orange leaves during the fall season. Other people love seeing trees with bare limbs covered in snow during the winter. Still others would say the most beautiful tree they’ve ever seen is the cherry blossom tree.

Sakura is the Japanese term for cherry blossom trees. Cherry blossom trees are different from other cherry trees. The main difference is that cherry blossom trees don’t produce fruit. Instead, they bloom with beautiful pink or white flowers each spring. Unfortunately, the trees only flower for a week or two.

Cherry blossom trees are an icon of Japan. Some people even call the cherry blossom Japan’s informal national flower. The Japanese school year starts in April, during cherry blossom season. The flowers symbolize good luck, love, and springtime. Since they bloom for such a short time, cherry blossom trees also represent human mortality. They remind us how short and precious life is.

Every year, Japanese people track the progress of the blossoming cherry trees. They call it the sakura zensen, or cherry blossom front. The blooming moves slowly north with warmer weather. It starts in Okinawa in January and moves to Kyoto and Tokyo by the beginning of April. As the cherry trees bloom in each area, the Japanese enjoy hanami. This is the tradition of picnicking under a blooming cherry blossom tree. This tradition goes back many centuries. It’s a time of festivals and celebrations in honor of the cherry blossoms.

Japan is not the only place you can find these beautiful cherry trees. In 1912, Japan gave more than 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States. It was a gift to celebrate the countries’ friendship. The U.S. planted many of the trees in Washington, D.C. near the Jefferson Memorial. Others went to create Sakura Park in New York City.

Today, these Japanese cherry blossom trees are a popular tourist attraction. Each spring, thousands of people enjoy the trees during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. They admire the beautiful pink and white blooms and even picnic in their shade. Like the Japanese who celebrate sakura zensen, many Americans see the festival as a special time of year.

Have you ever seen a cherry blossom tree? Would you like to visit the festival? It’s a great way to celebrate the coming of spring! What other ways do you celebrate warmer weather? Take a walk with a friend or family member and point out the trees special to your area. Do they all have leaves, or do some of them bloom flowers? You’d be surprised at the variety of trees we can find in our own backyards!

Standards: C3.D2.Geo.4, C3.D2.Geo.6, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.W.9

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