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Are cherry blossoms purple?

Cherry blossoms are one of the most beloved signs of spring. These delicate flowers bloom for just a short time each year, drawing admirers from around the world. While most people picture cherry blossoms as having white or pink petals, some varieties actually produce purple flowers. In this article, we’ll explore the different colors of cherry blossoms, examine why some are purple, and settle the debate on whether cherry blossoms can be considered purple.

Introduction to Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossoms refer to the flowers produced by cherry trees, most often Prunus serrulata or Prunus x yedoensis. There are over 200 cultivars of these trees developed through selective breeding, resulting in a diverse palette of blossom colors and shapes.

The most common cherry blossom colors are white and various shades of pink, from pale pink to fuchsia. However, other colors like red, purple, and yellow also occur naturally or through cultivation. The variation in color is related to the different pigments produced in the petals.

Cherry blossoms originated in Asia but are now grown around the world as ornamental trees. They hold cultural significance in China and Japan, where viewing the ephemeral blooms is an important spring tradition. Certain varieties, like Somei Yoshino, are particularly iconic for Japanese cherry blossom festivals.

When most people think of cherry blossoms, they envision the pale pink variety. But the existence of white, red, and purple blossoms shows nature’s diversity. Next, we’ll look closer at the pigments that produce purple cherry blooms.

What Makes Cherry Blossoms Purple?

Like other flower colors, purple cherry blossoms get their hue from plant pigments in the petals. There are two main pigments responsible for purple blooms:

  • Anthocyanins: These water-soluble pigments produce blue, purple, and red colors in plants. They are particularly present in purple varieties of cherry blossoms.
  • Carotenoids: These fat-soluble pigments produce yellow, orange, and red colors. A lack of anthocyanins allows the yellow of carotenoids to show through, creating a purple tone.

For a cherry blossom to become purple, it needs either a strong concentration of anthocyanins, or a combination of anthocyanins and carotenoids. Imbalances in soil chemistry, lighting, temperature, and water can all affect the pigments produced.

Here is a table summarizing the main pigments in different colored cherry blossoms:

Color Main Pigments
White None
Pink Anthocyanins
Red Anthocyanins
Purple Anthocyanins, Carotenoids
Yellow Carotenoids

As an example, a purple cherry tree relies on the right balance of anthocyanins and carotenoids being produced in its petals. Too much or too little of either pigment would result in a different color blossom.

Natural Purple Varieties of Cherry Blossoms

While less common than pink or white, natural purple cherry blossoms do exist. Here are some of the varieties that can produce purple blooms:

  • Prunus x yedoensis ‘Akebono’ – A hybrid cherry blossom cultivar that bears semi-double, pale purple flowers in spring.
  • Prunus x incam ‘Okame’ – A purple-leaf cherry tree that produces semi-double, pink buds that bloom into pale purple blossoms.
  • Prunus pensylvanica – The pin cherry native to North America that can have purple tinted white or pink blossoms.
  • Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’ – A popular double-flowered cultivar whose pink blooms can fade to purple before falling.

These represent just a sample of the purple-flowering cherry trees available. Through selective breeding, horticulturists continue to develop new cultivars that showcase exotic colors.

Cultivated Purple Cherry Blossom Varieties

In addition to natural variation, growers can use cultivation techniques to produce purple cherry blossoms. Some methods include:

  • Introducing varieties with purple leaf pigmentation, like ‘Akebono’, that also tints the blossoms.
  • Exposing trees to cold weather to increase anthocyanin production.
  • Limiting nutrients like phosphorus to stress the tree into generating more pigments.
  • Adjusting soil pH to make it more acidic.
  • Grafting purple leaf or flower buds onto other cherry trees.

Here are some named cultivars of purple blossom cherry trees developed through cultivation:

Cultivar Description
Prunus ‘Accolade’ A hybrid with semi-double, bright purple flowers.
Prunus ‘Pink Clouds’ Pale purple blooms that darken as they age.
Prunus ‘Royal Burgundy’ Vibrant purple flowers on a tree with purple foliage.

These unique purple cherry blossom varieties are prized by gardeners and plant collectors. The techniques used to create them demonstrate how color in ornamental plants can be altered by human intervention.

Are Purple Cherry Blossoms Rare?

Purple-hued cherry blossoms are less common than the pink and white varieties most people are familiar with. However, they aren’t exceptionally rare.

Purple cultivars make up around 5-10% of named cherry blossom varieties. Additionally, many pink or white trees can take on purplish tones under the right conditions. Purple blooms are considered unique and desirable but not unprecedented.

Here is a chart showing the approximate distribution of cherry blossom colors:

Color Percentage
Pink 75%
White 15%
Purple 5-10%
Other 5%

So while not the most common, purple cherry blossoms are readily available from specialty nurseries and can be found in many botanical gardens.

Viewing Purple Cherry Blossoms Around the World

If you want to see stunning purple cherry blossoms firsthand, here are some top spots worldwide:

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden (New York) – Home to over 200 cherry trees with a diversity of blossom colors.
  • Branch Brook Park (Newark, New Jersey) – Contains several purple-leaf cherry varieties that produce lighter purple blooms.
  • Washington D.C. – The famous cherry blossom festival includes exotic specimens like ‘Akebono’ and ‘Pink Clouds’.
  • Bonn, Germany – Purple cultivars like ‘BlueHerat’ and ‘Mister Blue’ accent the scenic riverfront cherry trail.
  • Maasbommel, Netherlands – ‘Royal Burgundy’ trees produce vibrant purple flowers alongside the standard pink.

Seeing fields of colorful cherry blossoms can be a breathtaking springtime experience. If you plan your trip right, you just might be able to view magnificent purple blooms.


While white and pink are the colors most associate with cherry blossoms, nature produces these ephemeral flowers in diverse hues. Through smart cultivation, growers have developed numerous cultivars with purple blossoms.

The purple color arises from a balance of anthocyanin and carotenoid pigments. Though less common than other colors, purple cherry blooms are readily available from specialty suppliers.

Cherry blossom season provides the rare chance to see these unique purple varieties. So seek them out at botanical gardens and spring festivals worldwide. The sight of vivid purple cherry trees in full bloom is sure to make your trip unforgettable.