Cherry-picking your blossom

Press release - 22 April 2010

As cherry trees blossom, join the Natural History Museum’s plant hunters to survey Britain’s iconic trees

Scientists at the Natural History Museum are calling on Britons to complete the first-ever cherry tree survey in a bid to discover more about the bountiful blossom trees. Blossom lovers can log on at www.nhm.ac.uk/cherries and use an online survey to identify and record the different cherry tree types where they live, and the records will be used to map the location of where the trees grow in the UK and when they flower. Scientists will use this information to learn about the location and species, and count cherry trees in streets, parks and gardens across the UK.

Bob Press, Associate Keeper of Botany at the Natural History 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 where every cherry tree is in this first-ever UK census of cherries.’

Cherries all belong to the group of tree species known as Prunus and share a number of characteristics. Nine of the types of cherry found in the UK form the focus of the Museum’s survey, including the wild cherry (Prunus avium) and morello cherry (Prunus cerasus), which are widely cultivated for their fruit. Information collected in the survey will allow scientists at the Natural History Museum and other research organisations to gain a much better insight into the cherry population and how changes in the climate might affect flowering and fruiting times.

Bob explains, ‘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 blossom. So we’re encouraging people to familiarise themselves with cherries and learn about their identification. After all, the only equipment you need to identify these trees is yourself, although it might be handy to take a notebook.’

The Museum’s cherry tree survey is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and will run over three years. In the coming weeks, the Museum will be launching a larger survey of the most common groups of trees in urban environments. The aim of the first year is to collate as much information on the number, species and location of cherry trees as possible. In the second and third years, the survey will be refined and expanded based on the information gathered in the previous years.

For more information and to take part in the survey, please visit www.nhm.ac.uk/cherries

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Notes for editors

  • More information about cherries and the survey is available at www.nhm.ac.uk/cherries
  • Winner of Visit London’s 2009 Best London for Free Experience Award, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is helping to conserve the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in over 68 countries.
  • The Natural History Museum is part of the worldwide celebrations of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010. The diversity of life on Earth is crucial for human well-being and now is the time to act to preserve it. For information on events, initiatives and exhibitions across the UK, visit www.biodiversityislife.net
  • The cherry tree survey at the Natural History Museum is supported by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s purpose in the UK and Ireland is to help enrich and connect the experiences of individuals and secure lasting and beneficial change. One of its core aims is to support imaginative interventions that contribute to an increased understanding of the importance of habitat conservation for the protection of the environment. The Foundation was established in Lisbon in 1956. The UK Branch, based in London, has for more than 50 years initiated and supported pioneering cultural, social and educational developments. For further information see: www.gulbenkian.org.uk