This year’s cherry blossom is a bit late…. But there are still various places where one can see and enjoy cherry flowers. The Omake Cherry Tree in front of the Chotokuji Temple is one of the first to bloom in Kyoto. And it’s been an amazing view for the last few days.
The magnificent Okame cherry is one of the first variety to bloom. It breaks the dreary grip of late winter with an outstanding two- to three-week display of rosy pink blossoms. This hybrid small flowering cherry was developed in England, created by crossing two Asian cherry species.
The Okame cherry is a man-developed hybrid plant. In early 20th century England, noted cherry tree enthusiast Captain Collingwood Ingram experimented with creating a cherry with excellent tolerance of winter cold and tremendous flowering. The seedling ‘Okame’ resulted from fertilizing the female flower of a Fuji cherry (Prunus incisa) with the pollen from a Taiwan cherry (Cerasus campanulata). Sources in the 20th century published the botanical name as Prunus x incisa ‘Okame’. This name is considered synonymous with, but is not preferred to, the modern name of Prunus ‘Okame’.
Oh, by the way, the name “Okame” which means “Tortoise”, is also a lucky symbol for long life. Okame represents a lovely, always smiling Japanese woman who brings happiness and good fortune to any man she marries.
If you want to know more. . .
The glory of the Okame cherry is the abundance of rosy pink flowers in late winter and early spring. It is often regarded as the first cherry tree to flower in the landscape, often flirting with subfreezing late winter temperatures as the flowers open. The flowers have five petals and are attractive as pollen and nectar sources for bees. Although the flowers are pink, there are castings of reddish rose or lavender when the blooms are seen en masse on the branches. The flowering season lasts two to three weeks. After flowering, the deep green foliage appears and extends into autumn. In hot, long summers, the foliage often becomes bronzed, more so if conditions are dry. As autumn weather brings sunshine with cool nighttime temperatures, the foliage turns an attractive bronze-orange to orange-red. The bark of the Okame cherry is particularly interesting in winter with the foliage absent. The pale rust-tan or gray, smooth bark has horizontal stripes of lenticels, or small spot holes, on it, and the satiny sheen of the bark reflects light.
The Chotokuji Temple is located across the street from the Demachiyanagi train station which is the terminus of the Keihan line.