Cherry blossom trees bloom across Toronto

(Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

On April 22, several cherry blossom (sakura) trees in Toronto opened their flowers and reached peak bloom across the city. Every year, these annual spring blooms attract masses of people to see the flowers for themselves.

“Peak bloom in the bloom development process refers to when at least 70 per cent of the [cherry] blossoms are open,” says Rohith Rao, the fundraising and communications director for High Park Nature Centre. “It is the ideal time for viewing cherry blossoms, as a majority of their flowers are open and in bloom. I like describing them as little white clouds on trees.”

(Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

“I just saw them recently, actually. I really enjoy looking at them,” says Sofia Savoiardo, a first-year student majoring in Business and Society. “Cherry blossoms are my favourite tree. They really brighten the mood up and they make everything seem brighter and more beautiful in the spring.” Savoiardo notes that the cherry blossoms also considerably brighten up the York campus.

Jayent Punia, a second-year software and engineering student, shares this sentiment. “Being an international student, I didn’t get to see such trees elsewhere back in my country. When I see them here in Canada, especially in Toronto during the summer season, it’s so attractive.”

When the peak bloom of cherry blossoms begins, it can last for about one week at most, depending on the weather conditions. Usually, cool temperatures and calm conditions can prolong the bloom, while warm temperatures with unfavourable conditions can shorten it. Each peak bloom period varies from year-to-year due to changing temperatures, and every period ends when the petals of the cherry blossoms start to fall.

The most famous cherry blossom trees in Toronto can be seen blooming at High Park every year from late April to early May. This prompts thousands of people to travel to High Park’s Grenadier Pond annually to take photos of themselves and their loved ones with the flowers, enjoying the beautiful scenery the park has to offer.

A crowd of people at High Park (Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

The cherry blossoms at High Park were among the first sakura trees to be planted in Toronto on April 1, 1959. On this day, the Japanese-Canadian ambassador, Toru-Hagiwara, gifted 2000 sakura trees to Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo, in appreciation of Toronto accepting relocated Japanese-Canadians following World War II. The event was brought to life by the efforts of numerous leaders and members of the Japanese-Canadian community, including the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto and the Embassy of Japan in Canada, who managed to raise $20,000 to plant these trees. This was a monumental achievement for the small Japanese community in Toronto at the time, who faced discrimination during and after World War II.

“The trees are important for the Japanese-Canadian community, both culturally and as a symbol of friendship and community,” says Rao. “Thanks to their collective efforts, Torontonians continue to enjoy cherry blossom viewing experiences in High Park and across the GTA.”

Since then, additional cherry blossoms have been planted around different areas of High Park in 1984, 2001, 2006, and 2019. Many other sakura trees have also been planted in other places across Toronto as part of tree-planting projects that aim to promote greater friendship and goodwill between Japan and Canada.  

A plaque honouring the first plantings of the cherry blossom trees in Toronto (Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

If you are interested in going to High Park during the cherry blossom season, note that High Park is closed to vehicles during peak bloom. It is recommended to not litter inside of High Park and to stick to designated trails and paths in the park to avoid damaging rare plant vegetation. 

“Please remember that this is not just a recreational park, but also an Environmentally Significant Area (ESA) and an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI),” Rao states. “It houses a globally rare ecosystem known as the Black Oak Savannah and is home to several species of plants and wildlife, many of which are considered to be at risk species.” These include tiny loonie-sized Midland Painted Turtle hatchlings. “If you see a hatchling,” Rao cautions, “call the Turtle Protectors Hotline at 647-491-4057.”  

A turtle hatchling protection area near the cherry blossoms (Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

Rao also warns that the park can get extremely crowded during these times, especially in warmer seasonal weather. To avoid large crowds, Rao recommends visiting other locations around Toronto to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. A list of these locations can be found here

York’s Keele Campus is a good place for students to see the cherry blossoms. York was the first university to participate in the sakura Project in 2003, which aimed to plant 3,000 sakura trees in the province of Ontario by 2005. Many of these trees are still present today. The best display can be seen west of Calumet Residence near Arboretum Lane, but there are also many cherry blossom trees growing along Campus Walk as well as outside Tait Mackenzie Centre.

A cherry blossom tree at Tait Mackenzie Centre (Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

“I also want to reiterate the importance of cherry blossom viewing etiquette,” Rao says. “These trees are really sensitive and can be damaged quite easily. When so many people pluck the blossoms, tug on the branches or climb the trees, it can really stress and bruise them. It’s like if you pinch someone a hundred times, that’ll certainly leave a scar and hurt them.” Rao emphasizes for people to refrain from touching or plucking the cherry blossoms, tugging or breaking the branches of the trees, or climbing them.

“The peak bloom of cherry blossoms is so captivating for Torontonians because it signals an unofficial arrival of the spring season in the city,” Rao states. “They paint the landscape of High Park and Toronto with some pretty pink and white colours, and make for great photos. It holds cultural significance for many communities and is a sign of hope and renewal for lots of people.”

When asked about any good memories he had of the cherry blossoms, Punia says that he collected many photographs of the trees to show to his parents back home and had a fun time hanging out with his friends. “The cherry blossoms attracted us, in a way,” he says. “They were so unique, so different and so positive as well.”

For Savoiardo, she plans on spending more time enjoying what spring has to offer:

“I haven’t been out on campus very much since the strike, so I think I’m gonna be spending more time outside to enjoy the weather and just look at nature. I really hope that there’s going to be more to see.”

A grove of cherry blossom trees near Calumet Residence (Courtesy of Nabneel Sarma)

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By Nabneel Sarma


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