Forget the calendar. Once the 100 cherry trees along Waterfront Park begin blushing, spring has sprung. The white and pink blossoms start popping in March, as they have since 1990, when a group of businessmen from the Japanese Grain Importers Association donated them to Portland.
“They maintained their branch offices here, and they loved the hospitality of the area,” says Henry Sakamoto, a Portland native and former president of the Oregon Nikkei Endowment. “It was a great gift to the city.”
While the waterfront’s Akebono trees blossom early, the show continues at Hoyt Arboretum, home to about 60 of the trees, including the late-flowering Shirofugen cultivar.
“It’s a double flower, so it has more petals than a typical cherry blossom,” says the arboretum’s curator, Martin Nicholson. “It gives the flower a much fluffier appearance.”
The name Shirofugen, which dates to 15th-century Japan, references an elephant-riding Buddhist saint—look closely, and you’ll notice the flower’s pistils resemble a pachyderm’s trunk.