What's your cherry, a morello, Fuji, Japanese or wild?

11 April 2011

The blossom of cherry trees is a beautiful sight of spring, but can you tell a morello from a Fuji cherry? Or a Japanese from a wild cherry? Have a go at identifying them and help scientists at the Natural History Museum record UK sightings in their cherry tree survey.

Now in its second year, the survey has shown that cherry trees are found as far north as the Orkneys and as far south as Guernsey. The most recorded species last year was the wild cherry followed by the Japanese cherry.

Flowers of the wild cherry tree, the most record species in the first year of the cherry tree survey

Flowers of the wild cherry tree, the most recorded species in the first year of the Museum's cherry tree survey © Bob Press

Scientists want people in the UK to record the location and species of cherry trees in their area, and if they are flowering. It will help them get a better insight into the cherry population and how changes in the climate might affect flowering and fruiting times

There is an interactive identification key at www.nhm.ac.uk/cherries to help you spot 9 of the species or groups of cherry trees in the UK. There are also cherry tree factsheets and guides to the many cherry tree look-alikes.

Dr Johannes Vogel, Keeper of Botany at the Museum explains, ‘A classic sign of spring, cherries are easy to spot because of their beautiful, colourful blossom.

'Now they’ve started to flower, we’re asking people to get outside to try to identify and map every cherry tree as we continue our UK census of cherries.

'This year we are particularly interested in finding out more about the trees in gardens.’

Cherries all belong to the group of tree species known as Prunus and share characteristics. Johannes says, ‘People often associate blossom with cherries, but not all blossom is the result of cherry trees and it can be easy to be tricked into thinking you’re looking at cherry blossom when actually it may be plum, apple or pear.

'So we’re encouraging people to familiarise themselves with cherries and learn about their identification with our simple identification guide.’

Citizen science

Ailsa Barry, Head of Interactive Media at the Museum says the survey is part of the larger urban tree survey.

'Online surveys like this are a great way for people to do real science and assist our professional scientists by providing essential information that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

'Many records showed that cherries have grown far taller than we would expect, with some trees reaching 9 metres in height.

'Here at the Natural History Museum we are working more and more with our visitors to show how they can do real science, too.’

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