We may be spending most of our time indoors at the moment, but there are still opportunities to enjoy spring unfolding its sequence of fruit tree blossom. Whether you’re looking at street trees from your window, in your garden, or in the park during your exercise walks, now is the time to relish beautiful blossom, just as our pollinators will be! Here’s our guide to which fruit trees blossom when.
February to May
One of the lovely things about fruit tree blossom is that different species, and different varieties, bloom at different times, creating a season that extends from February to May. The timings below will vary by several weeks depending on each year’s weather patterns, and what part of the country you live in, but hopefully this overview will help you start to identify your blossom (N.B. the timeframes below are for the south east, where the author, – our Project Manager, Stephanie, is based).
Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) – February to March (there are 3 varieties, pink Nigra is the latest to flower)
Almond – February
Apricot – early March
Sloe (Blackthorn) – early March
Plum – March
Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)- early April
Pear – April
Apple – April and May
Quince – mid May
Medlar – mid to late May
Flowering cherry trees
Then of course there are the ornamental cherry trees, cultivated in Japan, which do not produce fruit, but do produce gorgeous blossom from winter to late spring. There are dozens of different varieties, including the small delicate pink flowers of Prunus Okame which blooms in late January, to the large frothy white petals of Taihaku in March, and the hot pink pom-poms of Kanzan in early April.
Many people get confused when they see cherry blossom in the winter and think, “this is climate change gone mad!”. It is true of course that warmer winters are causing many plants to flower earlier, but there is in fact a winter flowering cherry tree — Prunus subhirtella Autumnalis — which has been cultivated to bloom as early as November.
Vital for wildlife
These early flowering trees are particularly important for the queen bumble bees who have been hibernating (already pregnant) over the winter, and emerge in late winter and early spring. They need flower nectar to give them enough energy to look for a suitable nest site to lay their eggs. Early-flowering fruit trees (along with other early flowering shrubs and flowers) are just the ticket. (That said, the double flowering ornamental cherry trees are not suitable for the bees: too many petals blocking the bee’s path to the nectar!)
Join the Blossom Watchers! – Share your pictures
If you have any photos of blossom from your garden, orchard or neighbourhood walks, please do share them with us on social media! It all helps to boost the spirits of those who can’t go outside, and to stay connected to nature as much as possible. Use the hashtags #BlossomWatch, #WildlifeFromMyWindow or #VirtualSpring to join in, and @mention us on Twitter (@ProjectOrchard), Facebook or Instagram (@theorchardproject).