Skip to content

How do cherry trees work?

Learn how a cherry tree functions in this interactive illustration.

The 29 cherry trees in the Quad usually reach peak bloom the third week of March, according to UW arborist Sara Shores. Warmer temperatures and mild weather all factor into when the cherry trees start to blossom and when they reach peak bloom.

Once the trees reach peak bloom — when at least 70% of the blossoms have emerged — cooler temperatures, drier weather and lighter winds will keep the blossoms on the trees longer. The University asks that visitors not climb the trees or shake their branches, as this can cause damage.

Dozens of varieties of blossoming cherry and plum trees can be found across the Seattle area, with blooms visible from early February until, for some species, May. Petal colors range from white to light rose to dark pink, and cherry trees — unlike plums — have distinct horizontal-line patterns on their bark called lenticels. These help the trees “exhale” or release carbon dioxide and water.

Plum trees, which often are mistaken for cherry trees, bloom earlier than most cherries and don’t have lenticels on their bark.

Originally published by UW News in March 2022