It’s About Time for the Cherry Blossoms in North Park


Each spring, the dull colors of fall and winter are replaced in North Park with vibrant hues of pink, as the blossoms of hundreds of cherry trees planted in the park since 2009 begin to bloom.

But exactly when the dramatic transformation will occur is a mystery.

“We have our best guesses for when the flowers will bloom, but Mother Nature doesn’t tell us when the conditions are right for that to happen,” said Carol Tenny, a member of the Pittsburgh Sakura Project, who has been planting and tending cherry trees in the park since 2009.

The project began with 40 cherry blossom trees planted near the north shore of North Park Lake as a tribute to the Japanese community in Allegheny County, according to organizers.

There are now over 250 cherry trees in the park, with half a dozen more usually added each year.

Sakura means cherry blossom, and it is the unofficial national flower of Japan. The cherry blossom symbolizes delicate and ephemeral beauty, new beginnings, and friendship between the United States and Japan.

Several stands of cherry trees are planted near the park’s boathouse, along Lakeshore Drive, and in various other locations throughout the park. A map showing where the cherry stands are can be viewed at the end of Tennis Court Road, accessible from the Boathouse parking lot exit.

Tenny said the “ephemeral nature” of when the flowers will bloom and how long they will remain “is part of the cherry blossom’s appeal.”

Sakura Project member Barbara Litt said most pink flowering trees are a variety known as “accolade,” while white cherry blossoms are a variety called “akebono.”

The park also has early-blooming “okame” cherry blossoms that grow in shades of deep pink, Litt said.

Litt noted that the original organizers of the project anticipated that it would take about 10 years for the first set of planted trees to mature.

“These trees are just starting to take flight,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful testament to nature as well as a beautiful testament to the international goodwill between Japan and the United States.”

Tenny said the best way to know when the flowers are blooming is to follow the group’s instructions. Facebook pagewhere regular updates on tree progress are posted.

“I encourage people to take the time to visit the park and experience the natural beauty of the cherry blossoms when they are in full bloom,” she said.

Individuals interested in increasing the number of cherry trees in the park can donate or even buy a memorial tree.

Tony LaRussa is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, or via Twitter .

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