The cherry tree exists in many varieties worldwide and forms a prominent part of various cultures. For example, Japan celebrates its stunning cherry blossoms, and America still tells legends of the tree, George Washington, and his hatchet.
Classified under the genus Prunus, the cherry tree is one of the most wide-ranging tree species, with over 430 different varieties. If you think you know cherry trees, think again!
Their wood, bark, foliage, and fruits are all useful and valued in different cultures worldwide. And since each species is slightly different, the most popular type of cherry tree varies depending on the region.
Today, we’re going to break down some of the most popular and beloved cherry tree species from across the world.
Whether you’re a fan of trees and a lover of knowledge or whether you’re interested in picking the best species to plant where you live, keep reading to learn all about 17 of the different types of cherry trees from around the world.
List of Different Types of Cherry Trees Around the World
1. Prunus Jamasakura, or Yamazakura
This first type is one of Japan’s most popular and prolific cherry blossom trees. Most varieties are referred to as sakura, and this one is well-known for its hardiness and beautiful colors, so much so that it’s Japan’s national tree.
Native to the hill areas of Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, this wild-growing cherry tree blooms in April with single white or light pink blooms that fill the tree. Likewise, the leaves and bark of this species have a red tinge to them, contributing to the beautiful spring aesthetic of this tree.
This species can grow up to 59 feet tall and 32 feet wide. While its natural habitat is in Asia, it’s hardy in western countries. It thrives in zones 4 through 8 in the U.S. and up to zone 5 in the U.K.
Not only are the fruits consumed, but the beloved blossoms are also often eaten: they can be pickled in salt and added to tea or eaten over rice. These are some of the most popular blooms you’ll find in Japan during hanami, the cherry blossom blooming season in Japan.
2. Prunus Serrulata, Oriental cherry, or Kwanzan
Another favorite in Japan, this cherry blossom tree has many similar attributes as its native cousin, but it can grow even taller, up to 75 feet in the wild. It’s native to areas of China, Japan, and Korea and grows prolifically in ravines and at high elevations.
The oriental cherry, also called a Kwanzan tree, has distinctive pink double blooms that add to the lush, dense look of the tree while it’s in blooming season. While the beautiful pink flowers will take over the tree before its new leaf growth in April, the blooms only remain for a week or two.
This species has also adapted to different growing climates, although it won’t grow as tall. It also can be much more challenging to grow than its counterpart, needing precise pruning, light soil, and mild weather to flourish.
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3. Prunus Shidarezakura, or Japanese Weeping Cherry Tree
Few things are more picturesque than a Japanese weeping cherry tree in full bloom. The gracefully arched branches sway in the breeze, loaded with the beautiful, fluffy, pink double blossoms.
While smaller varieties are available stateside, the true Shidarezakura in Japan can grow to be quite towering. In fact, one of Japan’s oldest trees, which has been growing for over 1000 years, is a Japanese weeping cherry tree.
It’s no wonder that this tree’s bloom is the official flower of the Kyoto prefecture in Japan, as it’s also one of the most easily identified cherry trees in the country.
Weeping cherry trees bloom a little earlier than other varieties by about a week or so.
Visit Tokyo, and you’ll see these beauties start to burst with their distinctive pink blooms first thing in April and sometimes even earlier, at the end of March.
4. Prunus Serrula, or Tibetian Cherry Tree
Do you know what a cherry tree is supposed to be like? Take a look at a Tibetian cherry tree, and think again! These beautiful cherry trees challenge the stereotypes with their deep, shiny mahogany bark striped and banded with duller brown patches.
As native growing in western China and Tibet, these trees can grow up to 30 feet tall. They have a lovely, rounded, symmetrical growing habit that makes them popular in courtyards, parks, and gardens.
Its dense clusters of small white flowers appear in early spring, followed by deep red berries in the fall. After it loses its foliage in fall, the bark seems to peel in the winter, adding visual interest all year round.
This low-maintenance cherry tree is hardy in U.S. zones 6 through 8 and is a unique, exotic-looking addition to any yard with enough room.
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5. Prunus avium, Wild Cherry, or Sweet Cherry
Although it isn’t as showy or prevalent as some of its cousins, we’d be remiss not to talk about the most basic cherry species. This variety grows wild in European forests and has since prehistoric times. Since then, it’s also become a famous American tree.
It’s one of the few kinds of cherry trees that remains uncultivated or domesticated, so while it’s not a highly prized variety, you’ll still notice its presence in areas around the Caspian sea. In that region, it flourished so well that the government sent out an edict in 1669 to limit the tree in favor of others like oak.
These hardy trees can grow up to 120 years old, yielding sour cherries that darken as they ripen. The blooms on this variety are white and grow in a long peduncle on this upright tree in April and May.
Although people may not grow this variety for fruit or blooms, they still use it as the rootstock for cultivating other cherry trees explicitly grown for fruit.
You’ll see the name of this species in conjunction with many of the types of cherries you’re probably used to finding at the grocery store.
6. Prunus x Yedoensis, or Yoshino Cherry
Many cherry tree varieties that grow to towering sizes in their native Asian environment and habitats can still flourish at smaller sizes in the West. The Yoshino cherry is one such famous landscaping tree.
Also called the Potomac cherry, this variety is hardy in U.S. zones 5 through 8. It can grow up to 50 feet, although it stays much shorter in the U.S. The beautiful pale pink, single-flower blooms are prolific with a unique almond smell.
The growth pattern of this species is primarily upright, although some cultivars of it also display a weeping growth pattern that’s beautiful for landscaping. Landscapers and homeowners also love this tree as a year-round interest plant because of its red-tinged bark and dark green foliage.
This species, a cross between two other beautiful blooming varieties, is one of the most prominent flowering cherry trees on display in Washington, D.C.
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7. Prunus Spachiana F. Ascendens, or Usuzumi Cherry
This is another beautiful variety of cherry trees native to Japan that has found a home around the U.S. capital. Producing unique, single blooms that fade to a lovely gray color into their blooming season, this variety can grow up to 40 feet tall.
In Japan, the Usuzumi cherry is one of the three oldest and most revered cherry tree species. The most prominent of them is a 1500-year-old specimen growing in the Gifu prefecture of Japan. Because of this tree’s graceful rounded growing habit, this ancient tree is supported all around by wooden poles.
The Usuzumi cherries you’ll see around Washington, D.C., are propagations of this same tree, giving them a beautiful and rich history. In the U.S., these trees grow well up through growing zone 6 and prefer to stay out of frigid temperatures.
8. Prunus x Okame, or Taiwan Cherry
If you’re looking for a true pink cherry bloom, the Taiwan cherry is a great place to start. Not only are its blooms strikingly hot pink, but it is also one of the earliest flowering cherry trees.
In fact, this tree will often bloom before all of its spring foliage has emerged from the winter.
You can find the branches covered with bright, stunning blooms in very early spring, perhaps while there is still snow on the ground. These blooms also tend to last longer than those of other cherry species.
This particular cherry tree is another species that came to the U.S. as a gift from Japan. In the early 1900s, the Japanese government sent many species a goodwill gift to America. However, numerous early varieties succumbed to disease or pests. Several years later, more hardy varieties arrived, with the Taiwan cherry among them.
Although less than 1% of the cherry trees in Washington D.C. are Taiwan cherries today, they’re some of the most beautiful and enduring blooms.
9. Prunus Virginiana, or Chokecherry
While this variety may not bear a sweeping resemblance to many of its relatives, the chokecherry is a large deciduous shrub native to North America.
Also called a bitter-cherry, this variety can grow up to 30 feet tall and has a dense growing pattern that can often form thickets in the wild. Found widely across the U.S. and Canada, it provides beautiful fall foliage as well as white blooms from April through July.
Its fruit has a characteristic sour and bitter taste, but people still love to use it in products like jams and preserves. While many cherry species prefer mild weather, this is one of the few cold-resistant and rather hardy types.
As such, people often chose it as an ornamental plant. Still, it has a special place in preserving the environment, as many wild animals – from mammals down to insects – use it for refuge as well as food. The Native Americans even used its bark for medicinal purposes.
Like other cherry varieties, consuming the fruit and the seed can prove harmful, as the seed has small quantities of a substance poisonous to the human body.
10. Prunus Subhirtella Var. Autumnalis, or Autumn Flowering Cherry
One of the most significant drawbacks of the cherry tree, in general, is the short-lived bloom time. Although they’re most widely known for their beautiful and fragrant flowers, their short one- or two-week blooming period comes and goes quickly each year.
However, the autumn-flowering cherry is an anomaly of nature. Instead of exclusively blooming in this spring, this species will often bloom sporadically and partially in the fall before blooming fully in the springtime.
The growth pattern of this tree is also easily recognizable.
It grows upright with slender, twiggy branches stemming from a forked trunk to form dense overhead foliage. The flowers are very pale, light pink, and are semi-double, making them a more layered and lush-looking bloom than a single-bloom blossom.
Although it’s a naturally occurring hybrid native to Japan, you can still enjoy its foliage in areas across the U.S.
11. Prunus Subhirtella, or Edo Higan Cherry
As the parent variety of the autumn-flowering cherry, the Edo higan cherry has some similar qualities – but it definitely deserves its own spotlight. These are some of the most loved cherry trees, both in Japan and the States.
These trees can grow up to 60 feet tall, but one of their key benefits is their quick growth rates. Cherry trees are notorious for slow-growing, but the Edo higan cherry can grow more than 25 inches a year, which is pretty fast for a cherry tree.
The drawback is that they can take a while to flower after being established, but the beautiful pink and white spring blooms are worth the wait.
As an ornamental cherry species, the Edo higan thrives in zones 4 through 8 in the U.S. and loves full sun, but they are also one of the most low-maintenance cherry trees, making them an excellent choice for landscaping or parks if there is enough space to let them grow freely.
Some cultivars of this species grow in a lush, rounded shape, while some have a distinctive weeping growth habit. Regardless of the cultivar, this species is pretty hardy and offers beautiful fall interest. The bark turns reddish-brown, and some trees may feature curling bark.
The oldest identified tree in Japan has been growing for over 2000 years. Interestingly enough, this ancient beauty is a variety of the Edo higan cherry tree.
12. Prunus Takesimensis, or Takesimensis Cherry
Another popular cherry species that has taken over in the U.S. is the Takesimensis cherry. Native to South Korea, it’s become popular in areas around Washington D.C. because of its tolerance of wet soils.
Traditionally, cherry trees prefer loamy, light soils that prevent their roots from staying soggy. These are hard conditions to replicate consistently in some areas of the United States.
The Takesimensis can grow up to 65 feet in its native environment, but it’s likely to stay smaller when grown stateside, reaching around 30 to 40 feet. However, its resistance to flooding has been an exciting focus of study in the Potomac area.
This variety also features beautiful white blooms in large, lush clusters, making it perfect for placement in parks and as landscaping in wet areas.
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13. Prunus Ichiyo, or Ichiyo Cherry
In Japanese, the word ichiyo means “one leaf.” This term doesn’t refer to the bloom itself, which has lush, large, double blossoms that look more like a garden flower than a cherry blossom. Nor does it refer to how many leaves are on the tree.
Instead, ichiyo refers to the pistil in the center of the cherry bloom that looks like a tiny leaf. This variety is beautiful and unique in the world of cherry trees. Not only are the flowers especially large at up to two inches across, but the tree itself stays small for a cherry, growing to around 20 feet.
Its growth habit is rounded and symmetrically lush, and it flowers later than most cherry varieties, around mid to late spring. Although the Ichiyo cherry is not very hardy and may prove to be higher maintenance, it’s a beautiful ornamental tree for a focal point in a garden or a lawn.
This variety thrives in U.S. growing zones 5 through 8 and is a picture-perfect representation of the soft, romantic aesthetic many associate with blossoming cherry trees.
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14. Prunus Sargentii, or Sargent’s Cherry
While most trees on our list so far have been far better suited to milder weather, this species is an excellent fit for Midwestern areas. The Sargent’s cherry is highly adaptable and hardy, with beautiful pink blooms in spring and aesthetic red and yellow foliage in fall.
Although this cultivar is non-native to the U.S., it’s a fast grower and can still grow up to 40 feet and take full sun. It can also thrive in alkaline soil, which many cherry varieties can prove sensitive to.
This cherry variety is a popular choice for landscaping in parts of Illinois and other Midwestern states because of its full, rounded growing pattern. Although it grows upright, the foliage produces a sort of umbrella effect that’s magnified during blooming season, when it produces large clumps of beautiful flowers.
Sargent’s cherry produces dark cherry fruit after blooming season, but many will find these cherries too sour to be palatable.
15. Prunus Cerasus “Montmoren”, or Montmorency Cherry Tree
If you’re looking for a cherry tree that produces perfect fruit for an all-American pie, look no further than the Montmorency cherry tree. It’s hardier than most trees in cold weather and can flourish in U.S. zones 4 through 7.
These cherry fruits have a distinctively bright red color, and the fruit itself is rich but tart, perfect for pies and preserves. Plus, the cherries have some health benefits, such as improved sleep and better muscle recovery after exercise.
While the cherries can be harvested mid-summer, these trees produce beautiful, lush white blooms in the spring and provide beautiful fall foliage. Although they’re now very popular in the U.S. for fruit and landscaping, they were cultivated originally in France.
The rootstock for this variety comes from Prunus cerasus, which is the stock for all sour cherry varieties. Sour cherry and sweet cherry, or Prunus avius, are the most popular rootstock species for all of the cherries you’ll commonly find in grocery stores, including the beloved Bing and Rainier cherry varieties.
16. Prunus Padus, or European Birdcherry, or Mayday Tree
The European birdcherry is another variety that you may not think is actually related to many of the examples on our list. However, compare the Mayday tree with the chokecherry tree, and you’ll notice a resemblance.
This species grows up to 40 feet tall with a similarly rounded spread and is native to temperate zones of Asia and Europe. The lovely-smelling white flowers that emerge in early spring are followed closely by small, black-colored fruits that are too tart for human palates but are beloved by birds.
While wild-growing Mayday trees provide ample shelter and are a great food source for animals, contributing to the ecosystem, they also make great ornamental trees. The fluffy blooms that cluster in a conical shape and this tree’s medium size, as well as its low maintenance, make it appealing for landscaping.
Although it is in the same genus as cherry trees, it’s also considered a member of the rose family. In some Northern European cultures, the blooming of this tree symbolized the birth of spring, and its involvement in spring festivals earned it its name.
17. Prunus Serotina, or Black Cherry
Even though many cherry trees are native to Japan or Europe, several varieties have originated in the Western hemisphere. The black cherry, for example, is native to the midwest. If you explore the woods in those areas, you will likely find a wild black cherry tree thriving.
The black cherry is actually the most critical and widespread native cherry in the U.S., and people have used it for many purposes throughout the decades. You can find the black cherry tree wood in furniture or flooring, and people have even used its bark for medicinal purposes.
Its name comes from its fruit, which matures to a small, black, pea-sized form. While the fruit is tart, you can use it for cooking and in beverages. It’s also an important food source for wild animals.
Some of these specimens can grow up to a whopping 110 feet tall and, if given enough growing space, can create an extensive, rounded spread to match. However, if crowded, these trees will still grow tall but very narrow.
You’ll find them commonly in U.S. growing zones 3 through 9. They also grow in Europe and even in parts of South America, but the people consider them an invasive species in both these locations.