Cherry trees are some of the most popular landscape trees because of their beautiful spring flowers, and many varieties produce tasty fruit. Some types of cherry trees are considered sterile as they do not produce any fruit, and are cultivated for their ornamental blossoms. Cherry trees grow wild in many European countries, North Africa and Asia Minor.

Cherry blossom trees in orchard
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Cherry Blossom Tree orchard

Characteristics of the Cherry Tree

Close-up of cherry blossoms
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Closeup of cherry blossoms

The cherry tree is a deciduous variety that flowers in the spring and loses its leaves in the fall. Flowers are typically white or pink. The bark is reddish-brown that breaks up into horizontal stripes. The leaves are oblong with jagged edges. If the tree produces fruit, it ranges from a bright to dark red, and is either sweet or sour. Sweet cherries are typically eaten plain, while sour cherries are typically used for baking.

Caring for Cherry Trees

Cherry trees in grove, Canada
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Cherry tree grove

Cherry trees have a life expectancy of roughly 20 years. They should be planted in the spring, and do well in full sun and well-drained soil. Sweet cherries are more difficult to grow as they often require pollination, while sour cherries typically self-pollinate. Cherry trees are susceptible to diseases and pests, so proper insect and disease control are required. Regular pruning typically is necessary in the spring.

Health Benefits from Cherries

Smiling woman with cake eating cherry
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Tart cherries have some of the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants found in fruits. Cherries also contain beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, iron and fiber. Cherries are grown in 20 countries, and the U.S. alone produces 150,000 tons of cherries annually. A single serving of cherries is 1/2 cup dried cherries, 1 cup frozen, or 1 cup juice. There was no definitive science as of 2010 that tells us how much we should eat to reap the health benefits.

Cherry Trees and Festivals

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Cherry blossoms near the Jefferson Memorial

Cherry trees are celebrated annually for two weeks at the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., as a celebration of springtime and the friendship between the citizens of the United States and Japan. In 1912, the Tokyo mayor gave Washington, D.C., 3,000 cherry trees. The first festival was held in the spring of 1935, and Japan donated 3,800 more trees in 1965. More than a million people visit Washington, D.C., each year to admire the cherry blossoms throughout the city.

Did George Washington Chop Down a Cherry Tree?

Washington Monument & spring cherry blossoms
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Washington Monument with Cherry blossoms

The cherry tree is deeply embedded into the history of the United States thanks to this long-lived fable. The first president of the United States did not chop down a cherry tree and proclaim he couldn't tell a lie. The fable was written by Mason Locke Weems and printed in The Life of Washington in 1809. The fable remains popular, however, and continues to be used as a tool to teach children the reward of telling the truth.