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