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What Is a Higan Cherry?

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  • Written By: Terrie Brockmann
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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Cherry trees belong to the genus Prunus of the Rosaceae, or rose, family; the Higan cherry is the Prunus x subhirtella species. The "x" in its name means it is a cross between two species: the P. incisa and the P. pendula. It is a very popular ornamental cherry tree, and there are many cultivars of it. This large Japanese native is especially pretty when planted alone as a specimen tree.

Typically, the Higan cherry will reach heights of 15 feet (about 5 m) by the time it is 20 years old. It may mature at heights of roughly 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12 m), and it is not unusual for the tree to become wider in the canopy than it is tall. Gardeners may let the plant grow naturally, allowing any pendulant branches to droop, or they may prune it into a more formal look. Some cultivars have pendulant branches that touch the ground.

Gardeners often select the Higan cherry for its lovely spring flowers. The pink or white flowers are typically bowl-shaped, up to 0.75 inches (about 1.9 cm) across and grow in clusters of two to five flowers. They usually appear before the leaves develop, giving the tree the appearance of being a delicate cloud of color. Generally, each flower has five petals, but some cultivars have double or semi-double flowers.

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The flowers mature into cherries and though the fruit is edible, growers usually do not consider the Higan cherry as a fruit tree. The fruit is red and turns maroon or near-black as it ages. Usually the ovoid, or egg-shaped, fruit is less than 0.5 inch (about 1.3 cm) long.

The leaves are generally elliptic, or oval, with finely-serrated points at each end and are deeply creased at the veins. In the spring, they may be light green, but mature to a deep green. Like many trees, in the fall they turn yellow. They are deciduous trees, meaning they drop their leaves before going dormant during the winter months.

One of the more popular cultivars is the 'Autumnalis,' which has white, semi-double flowers that are tinged with pink. 'Autumnalis Rosea' is similar to 'Autumnalis,' but it has pink flowers. Both of these plants may bloom in the autumn if conditions are favorable. The 'Fukubana' variety has deep rosy-pink, semi-double flowers. Some cultivars have pendulant branches as well, such as 'Pendula Rubra' and 'Yae-shidare-higan.'

When gardeners choose the Higan cherry as a garden plant, they should consider several things. The plant is very large at maturity, and buildings and other plants might crowd it. It also might need to be pruned regularly as it grows if a gardener plants it near electrical lines. The tree also creates more lawn litter than many trees when it drops its berries. If a grower chooses to prune the tree, it may need regular pruning to keep its shape as well.

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Krunchyman
Post 3

Even though I do agree with many points regarding the last paragraph, one thing that I'm surprised wasn't mentioned is the fact that when planting the Higan cherry plant, animals can be a major problem. While there are also other factors to consider, critters are always a problem when it comes to plants, at least based on my experience.

A few years ago, I was trying to plant the Higan cherry plant, but I was having issues because rabbits and chipmunks would come by and nibble the plants.

Even though I did use a pesticide known as "deer off", and it worked, I've always questioned using chemicals to rid plants of insects and animals. Sooner or later, the chemicals will leak inside the vegetables, and then we ingest them. Obviously, the effects wouldn't be immediate, but it's still not something we should be ingesting.

RoyalSpyder
Post 2

Although gardening and planting are very important, I like how the article clears up several factors that some people tend to forget about. Using one example, notice how in the last paragraph, it's mentioned that gardeners need to consider where the plants are growing.

For example, if it's out in an open field, it wouldn't be too much of a problem, as there's plenty of space available. On the other hand, as what's also mentioned, if you happen to be planting and gardening around old buildings and electrical lines, that can definitely pose a problem. It's best to stay as far away from those as possible.

In fact, that almost leads me to wonder. For those who live in the inner city (such as Chicago or New York), I wonder where they are able to plant. Those areas aren't even half as lush as they are in the country, and lack many forms of vegetation.

Generally speaking, this is one of the reasons why people choose to garden in their back yard, especially if it's big enough. It's out in an open space, there are no buildings getting in the way (for the most part), and it can get all the benefits of the weather, such as if it were to rain outside.

Chmander
Post 1

Wow, who knew that there was such a variety of cherries that are available? In fact, from reading this article, I'm also under the impression that some cherries aren't even meant to be eaten, but that they can also be used for decoration and view. Using an example, for those who have visited Japan, have you ever noticed that generally speaking, there are always a lot of cherry blossom trees? More than often, people don't bother to pick the fruit or eat it, as it's just for show.

Overall though, this isn't just the case with cherries, but many other kinds of fruit as well. From reading this article, I also got a good impression that planting trees takes a long time. It's certainly not like in other forms of media, where it's nothing more than a quick overnight process. However, on the other hand, the fact that some trees take such a long time to bloom, really shows how more than often, the best things take a lot of time and patience. Overall, this article is a great read, and it really shows some of the processes that go on during cultivation.

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