A branch of cherry blossoms spread out in front of St Paul's Cathedral

Cherry blossoms outside St Paul's Cathedral are a springtime treat in central London.

© Larysa242424/ Shutterstock

Cherry trees and their beautiful blossom: where and when to see it in the UK

Keep an eye out in early spring and you may be lucky enough to spot the delicate pink and white blooms of a cherry tree.

Discover when you can see cherry blossom in the UK, which cherry species grow wild here and some of the most spectacular spots to visit.

Cherry trees belong to a group of around 430 species of plants in the genus Prunus. These produce stone fruits and also include plum, peach, and almond trees.

People have cultivated hundreds of cherry tree varieties over time. These plants share several key features, such as serrated leaves, bark with distinctive horizontal bands, clusters of flowers in shades of pink and white, and roughly circular fruits with a single seed.

'Cherry blossom' generally refers to the flowers of ornamental cherry trees, rather than those that produce cherries for eating, though these do flower too.

When do cherry blossoms bloom in the UK?

Cherry blossom is a classic sign of spring, but exactly when cherry trees bloom in the UK varies depending on the location and the weather.

Most of the common cherry trees planted in the UK blossom in April. Mild winters can result in the trees flowering earlier, sometimes in March, but in cooler years they might not do so until May. In London, and other particularly warm and sheltered locations, cherry trees can sometimes burst into flower as early as February.

A parakeet hanging off a small twig with a flower in its beak

Cherry trees can provide tasty treats for animals. Here a wild parakeet snacks on a flower in one of London's Royal Parks.

© Cristian Gusa/ Shutterstock

Different varieties of cherry trees bloom at slightly different times. One of the earliest is the winter cherry, Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'. This tree's flowers appear in autumn and last nearly to the end of winter. The spring blossoms of other cherry tree varieties usually last for just a few weeks.

Where to see cherry trees in the UK

Cherry blossom is intrinsically tied to the history and culture of Japan, where the flowers are known as sakura. The tradition of viewing them is known as Hanami, and it stretches back at least 1,000 years.

Today, people from all walks of life celebrate the annual blooming of cherry trees. Many see in this return of spring through festivals called Sakura Matsuri. 

People surround market stalls underneath cherry trees with pink flowers

People stroll by a temporary market under blossoming cherry trees in Japan. This is part of a Sakura Matsuri festival in the city of Ōgaki.

© CHEN MIN CHUN/ Shutterstock 

But you don't have to plan a trip to Japan to see cherry trees blooming. Thousands of locations around the world offer opportunities to enjoy the cherry blossom season. There are many great spots across the UK where you can walk beneath clouds of pink and white petals.

Top cherry blossom locations in London

We're spoilt for choice with places to see cherry blossom in London.

With their manageable size and annual delicate floral displays, cherry trees are a popular choice in parks and gardens, and they survive well in urban environments so can often be spotted lining our streets. In fact, several streets close to us in South Kensington sport a bright pop of pink in spring!

Visit one of the Royal Parks and you'll see more cherry trees than ever before. In 2019, Japan gifted the UK 25 new cherry trees which were planted as part of the Japan-UK Season of Culture 2019-2020.

Here are some of the top places to look out for cherry trees in London. 

Cherry trees in bloom lining a path at Greenwich park

Greenwich Park

© Martell Brighten/ Shutterstock 

Greenwich Park is regarded as having one of the best collections of cherry blossoms in the UK.

Pale pink cherry blossoms overhang a path in Regent's Park

Regent's Park

© Kate Shi/ Shutterstock 

You can find cherry trees lining paths in Regent's Park.

Pink cherry blossoms partially obscuring St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

© Sven Hansche/ Shutterstock

The churchyard at St Paul's Cathedral features a picturesque splash of pink in the springtime.

Small cherry trees beside a path leading to a large greenhouse

Kew Gardens

© Mistervlad/ Shutterstock

You can walk among a variety of cherry trees at Kew Gardens. These blossoms line the path up to the Temperate House. 

Flowering cherry trees beside Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace

© I Wei Huang/ Shutterstock 

Cherry blossoms are a welcome reward after traversing the steep incline to Alexandra Palace

Other London locations include:

  • Battersea Park
  • Crouch End
  • Kensington Gardens
  • Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
  • Notting Hill
  • St James's Park

Highlights elsewhere in the UK

Pink cherry blossoms lit by the setting sun

The Meadows, Edinburgh

© Sangkunn/ Shutterstock

The Meadows park in Edinburgh is one of the prime locations for cherry blossom viewing in Scotland. 

An avenue of cherry trees with bumblegum pink petals

Pittencrief Park, Dunfermline

© Scotland's scenery/ Shutterstock

Visit Pittencrief Park, Dunfermline, in spring and you'll witness an explosion of colour as the cherry trees bloom.

Two cherry trees in bloom near a war memorial

Alexandra Gardens, Cardiff

© Billy Stock/ Shutterstock

Cherry trees surround the Welsh National War Memorial at the centre of Alexandra Gardens in Cardiff's Cathays Park.

A grove of cherry trees with white flowers

Alnwick Gardens, Northumberland

© george green/ Shutterstock 

The large formal gardens next to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland feature an impressive display of flowering cherry trees when spring arrives. 

More viewing locations in the UK:

Wild cherry species in the UK

Two cherry species are native to the UK – the wild cherry and the bird cherry.

Britain is also home to the sour cherry though this is known as an archaeophyte – a non-native species that was introduced before the sixteenth century.

A bumblebee feeding on nectar in a cherry flower

Cherry trees are an important source of food for animals including birds, insects and mammals.

© Pizarros (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Wild cherry, Prunus avium

Wild cherry is sometimes also known as Gean. This is the tallest cherry in Europe, reaching up to 30 metres high and can be found growing in woodland and hedgerows. It's also grown as an ornamental tree in parks, gardens and along streets.

Wild cherry blooms in April with a cluster of two to six white flowers bursting from each bud. Its red cherry fruits appear around July and are food for birds and mammals, which in turn help to distribute the plant's seeds.

This species is found across Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. 

A cherry tree stalk covered in many white flowers

Bird cherry's flowers grow in a dense cluster along a stalk

Bird cherry, Prunus padus

Bird cherry produces white flowers that have a distinctive almond scent. These bloom in a dense cluster along a stalk (called a raceme) and usually flower in May.

This tree produces globular black fruits that are very bitter – though they're still an important food source for animals.

Bird cherry is often found in wet and upland woodlands, alongside streams and also in hedgerows. Like wild cherry, this tree produces oval leaves with serrated edges, though the 'teeth' are smaller on this species. 

A cluster of white sour cherry flowers

Sour cherry grows wild in the UK, but isn't a native species. 

© Jörg Hempel (CC BY-SA 2.0 DE) via Wikimedia Commons

Sour cherry, Prunus cerasus

Sour cherry has bright white flowers that grow in clusters of two to six. These usually appear in May, making this one of the latest blooming cherry trees.

The round fruit of this tree can be bright red to near black, though it grows on shorter stalks than the bird and wild cherry. You'll find this tree in hedgerows, copses, and at the edge of woodlands.

A variety of this tree produces morello cherries, which are commonly used in cooking and baking, as well as in producing the colourless brandy Kirsch.

Other Prunus species in the UK

A number of cherry trees and their close relatives have been introduced to or are cultivated in the UK. 

Delicate pink cherry blossoms on a tree

Prunus serrulata 'Hokusai'

© 掬茶 (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese cherry, Prunus serrulata

This tree is sometimes referred to as the Oriental cherry.

It is thought the species originated in China before being introduced into Japan, and since then innumerable cultivars have been raised from it. They all have big, sharply toothed leaves.

Large pink cherry flowers

Prunus sargentii

© Kor!An (Андрей Корзун) (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Sargent's cherry, Prunus sargentii

Sargent's cherry blooms in around mid-April. Four to five rosy-pink flowers grow in clusters.

The species is named after American botanist Charles Sprague Sargent.

It's native to Japan, Korea and Sakhalin, a Russian island north of Japan.


The shiny red trunk of a Tibetan cherry tree

The Tibetan cherry is also known as the birchbark or paperbark cherry.

© Gardens by Design/ Shutterstock 

Tibetan cherry, Prunus serrula

Rather than being grown for its flowers, this small tree is often admired for its fantastic bark, which is a bright and glossy mahogany-red colour.

A dense cluster of white somei-yoshino flowers

Somei-yoshino is one of the most commonly grown varieties of cherry tree

© Uberlemur (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Yoshino cherry, Prunus x yedoensis

The white-flowered, rapidly-growing Yoshino is one of the most commonly planted cherry cultivars.

It's also known as Somei-yoshino and is a hybrid of the Oshima cherry (Prunus speciosa) and Prunus pendula f. ascendens. It's cloned from a single tree and grafting has been used to propagate this plant all around the world.

Its name comes from Somei village, which is now part of Toshima City in Tokyo, and Mount Yoshino, part of a UNESCO world heritage site and famous for its groves of flowering cherry trees. 

Dense groves of cherry trees in bloom across a mountainous landscape

In spring, cherry blossom casts a wave of pink across Mount Yoshino

© beibaoke/ Shutterstock

Mount Yoshino in Nara Prefecture, Japan, attracts many visitors when its some 30,000 cherry trees bloom. The mountain and its surroundings include several important religious and pilgrimage sites, and the abundant blossoms have inspired folk songs and poetry for centuries.

How will climate change affect cherry blossoms?

Thanks to the long-held traditions of cherry blossom viewing, there are long-term records of when cherry trees have flowered to look back on. Even during the blossoming season today, Japanese weather channels report on the 'cherry tree front' as the blooms spread across the country.

Records like these can help scientists look at changes in the time of year the trees are flowering and identify any link between that and our warming world.

For example, a 25-year study of the cherry trees on western Tokyo's Mount Takao found that, on average, the trees bloomed 5.5 days earlier than at the beginning of the study period. Over that time the average temperature had warmed by 1.8°C.

More research from Kyoto shows that the average flowering date from 1971-2000 was seven days earlier than an average of the last 1,200 years!

As for the UK, as the world's climate changes and winters become milder, as with other plants here, we could expect that the timing of cherry tree flowering could steadily become earlier each year.

Your favourite cherry tree locations

Where's your favourite cherry blossom spot? Do you know of a street in London lined with cherry trees, or perhaps you've seen beautiful blossoms elsewhere in the world?

Let us know on Twitter @NHM_London or message us on Facebook.