WASHINGTON — Now that the biggest question about the iconic Tidal Basin cherry blossom has been answered and we know the date of anticipated peak bloom this year, there’s another question about the cherry blossoms a lot of people have been asking the query: 'Do cherry blossom trees produce cherries?' skyrocketed online in the past few days.
Do cherry blossom trees produce cherries?
- The National Park Service arborist Matthew Morrison
- The Arbor Day Foundation
Yes, cherry blossom trees can produce fruit, but typically won’t around D.C. or at the Tidal Basin and when they do, these won’t be the kind of cherries you want to put on top of a sundae.
WHAT WE FOUND
“The Yoshino cherry trees, they were a gift from our friends in Japan and it began back in 1912,” explains National Park Service arborist Matthew Morrison of the variety of cherry tree lining the Tidal Basin. “It grows a nice big viable cherry that that's delicious.”
Just not these Yoshino cherry trees.
“These have been cultivated down. These trees have not been grown from a seed. They've been grown from cuttings from a mother tree. So because they're cultivated, they no longer will bear fruit, they're sterile and they just have the flowers,” he said. “However, sometimes it's a throwback to the original DNA and there will be tiny little berries.”
The Arbor Day Foundation explains the small berries from the tree are an important source of food for many small birds.
“They're tiny little unpalatable cherries that humans would never want to eat. But the wildlife around here does,” said Morrison. “Yes, we kind of refer to it as a berry because it's more berry like. But yes, it's got a big seed and then a small amount of the fleshy protection, the carbohydrate protection that encapsulates that sea seed.”
This change is by design, dating back to the original trees planted along the Tidal Basin more than 100 years ago, meant to be enjoyed by people, not animals.
“It's much cleaner and neater to have a tree that doesn't bear fruit. So that's why we cultivate them to just flower,” said Morrison.
If you have hopes of picking fresh cherries from one of the varieties of cherry tree around the District, Morrison says you’re better off planning a trip to a farmer’s market.
“They're all ornamental and they're all just flower bearing and not fruit bearing,” he said.