Tue., March 25, 2014 6:00am (EDT)

Cherry Blossoms For Dummies: A Guide To Spotting Macon's Famous Flower
By Adam Ragusea
Updated: 4 months ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
Clippings of Bradford pear (left), Yoshino cherry (center), and crab apple (right) blossoms. All three have five petals, and tend to bloom concurrently in Macon. (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
Clippings of Bradford pear (left), Yoshino cherry (center), and crab apple (right) blossoms. All three have five petals, and tend to bloom concurrently in Macon. (Photo: Adam Ragusea / GPB News)
Macon’s famous Yoshino cherry trees are blooming right on cue for the International Cherry Blossom Festival.

But for the uninitiated, it may be difficult to distinguish cherry blossoms from Middle Georgia’s many other flowering trees that bloom in the springtime.

“These things look so similar. It's really the fine points that make the difference," said Derrick Catlett, arborist at Middle Georgia State College.

There are two other common trees in bloom right now that could be confused for a cherry, Catlett said: Bradford pears and crab apples. Both have flowers with five petals, like the Yoshino.

The pear trees are “a beautiful plant, prized for these beautiful pure white blossoms,” Catlett said.

But their leaves tend to be partially emerged when the flowers bloom. Cherry trees rarely have any leaves when they bloom, he said.

So if you see a flowering tree that also looks partially green from the street, it’s probably not a Yoshino cherry tree.

Crab apple trees often have a flower that’s closer in color to the cherry tree, but the petals are much longer than those of cherry or pear trees, Catlett said.

“If you take a flower out and look at it independently, the petal touches another petal at no portion of the petal,” he said.

Yoshino cherry flower petals, in contrast, “are almost as wide as they are long, and they overlap each other,” Catlett said. The result is a flower that looks almost like a bowl, rather than the pinwheel crab apple flower.

One thing that might throw you off the cherry blossom’s trail: it looks more white than pink. At least, the flower does.

“Since it’s the Cherry Blossom Festival, we are a little more focused on blossoms, not only on open flowers,” Catlett said.

Blossoms are actually the swollen, partially emerged flower buds, he said. They appear pinker because only the pink tips of the flower petals are peaking out.

As the white portion of the petal emerges, the whole tree takes on more of a pale pink color.