Flowering cherry trees or sakura (in Japanese) have been reliable indicators of changing seasons in America since they were brought over from their native Japan in the early 1900s. Their introduction was due to a rather interesting series of events.
In 1909, the Mayor of Tokyo sent 2,000 Japanese cherry trees to Washington, D.C. However, the trees were barely alive when they arrived; they were diseased. Thus, a team from the Department of Agriculture inspected the trees. They concluded they had to be burnt to protect American growers.
Cherry blossom trees only made it into American soil in 1912. At the time Japan sent a bigger batch of about 3,000 trees. U.S. officials reciprocated by sending a shipment of flowering dogwoods, an American native with beautiful white blossoms, to Japan.
Thus, sakura blooms came to be a big part of springtime in different American states. The most famous is the Cherry Blossom Festival in the nation’s capital.
Flowering cherry trees are bred for their flowers, not fruit. Consequently, they come from many species, cultivars, and hybrids. The trees are distinguishable from one another by a number of traits. These traits include the number of petals and the color of blooms and leaves.
Their fluffy blossoms cover towns, parks, and gardens as a scenic transformation from winter’s bitter cold to spring’s rising warmth. Missouri is included in the visual transition, much to the excitement of Missourians.
The blooming period of a single tree is around a week. A whole stand lasts about two weeks. Peak blooms, when 70% of the flowers per stand burst into a spectacular sight of exquisite pink and white flowers, usually occur from March to May. The exact timing, however, depends on the species, location, and weather.
When and Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Missouri
#1 Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis
A stroll along the Missouri Botanical Garden in late March to early April is enough to erase any lingering thoughts of the harsh winter. The Garden is home to a range of cherry blossom species, from Higan to Kwanzan.
The Garden planted 20 centennial cherry trees in 2012. This was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s cherry tree gift-giving to the United States. The 20 trees are offshoots of the original trees Japan from 1912.
You can find the white, sweet-smelling blossoms of the Mount Fuji cherry in the George Washington Carver Garden from late March to early April. If you prefer the showy deep pink blooms of the Sargent cherry trees, head over to the Boxwood and Japanese Gardens. The Japanese Garden also contains over 40 Yoshino cherry trees. The famous species are known for their lovely white-pink flowers and mild almond fragrance. April at the Missouri Botanical Garden is the best time to savor this experience.
More than 40 Higan cherry trees are across the Garden. Many of which are in the Japanese Garden. Catch the sprawling branches, rose-draped blooms of the Higan cherries, and the eye-catching pink of the Kwanzan in April.
The Missouri Botanical Garden was established in 1859, making it one of the first botanical institutions in the country and a National Historic Landmark. You can access the Garden from the St. Louis metropolitan area, and parking is free. There are supplemental lots around Shaw Boulevard and South Vandeventer Avenue if the main parking lot is full. The Garden is closed on Mondays except for Presidents’ Day.
#2 Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival, Marshfield
Thanks to cherry blossoms, the Missourian city of Marshfield comes alive every April, and over 7,000 inhabitants participate in the Annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The three-day event is a celebration of American and Missouri heritage amidst the lovely springtime blooms. It also features a luncheon or dinner to honor authors, humanitarians, and other notable people in the state and country.
The honorary awards include the Hubble Medal of Initiative, Ella Dickey Literacy Award, Cherry Blossom Medal, Missouri Walk of Fame, and Homer Case Medal of Patriotism. A festival highlight is guest appearances from presidential descendants and other celebrities.
The Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival in Marshfield, Missouri, and the Peanut Festival in Plains, Georgia, became Sister Festivals on September 24, 2021.
The Marshfield Cherry Blossom Festival has been organized since the 2006 blooming season when the inaugural cherry blossom festival committee was set up. Nicholas W. Inman, a local, got the idea of planting cherry blossom trees in Marshfield when he returned home from his internship in Washington, D.C. His desire to bring a bit of the capital city to Marshfield birthed the tree-planting project.
Although the effort to plant cherry blossoms was underway in 2003, the official planting did not occur until 2004. Lori Houser Holden, then first lady of Missouri, planted the first tree at the Webster County Museum.
#3 The Gateway Arch National Park, St. Louis
The American city of St. Louis is home to the internationally-renowned 630-foot-tall (192 m) Gateway Arch, also known as “The Gateway to the West,” within the Gateway Arch National Park. The stainless steel monument design is by architect Eero Saarinen. Its completion in 1965 is in recognition of the westward expansion of the United States. It’s a National Historic Landmark site and popular among tourists.
The Gateway Arch also honors the individuals who contributed to the development of the region and nation. Virginia Minor is remembered for filing a suit for women’s suffrage. Dred and Harriet Scott sued at the Old Courthouse to be emancipated from slavery. Thomas Jefferson negotiated the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, which doubled the size of America. The explorers Lewis and Clark, accompanied by their guide, surveyed the new region and plotted a path to the Pacific.
Cherry blossoms surround St. Louis’ most recognizable landmark, the Gateway Arch, from late March to early April.
#4 Jacob L. Loose Park, Kansas
Jacob L. Loose Park, which spans 75 acres, is one of the most historic parks in Kansas City and the third-largest. It features a rose garden, tennis courts, a lake, picnic spaces, a water park, Civil War memorials, and a shelter house.
In 2012, the park received about 14 trees when Japan sent 3,000 sakura trees to the United States in honor of the centenary anniversary of the trees gifted in 1912. A visit to Loose Park from early to mid-April gives you a chance to see the fully bloomed cherry trees. They flank the sidewalks in the park’s area next to the Japanese Garden.
The Japanese Tea Room and Garden were created in 2006 as a means of cultural exchange between the sister cities of Kurashiki in Japan and Kansas City.
Commercial photo and video shoots on public property are subject to permission requirements, as are professional picture shoots for business purposes.
#5 Nathanael Greene/ Close Memorial Park, Springfield
At 113 acres, the Nathanael Greene/ Close Memorial Park houses the Springfield Botanical Gardens, one of the popular tourist destinations in Springfield. It’s across the road from Horton Smith Golf Course.
Many themed gardens, including roses, peonies, native plants, lilies, hostas, iris, ornamental grass, and many other Midwest delights, are at this Springfield beauty. There are also native trees such as Redbud, Shagbark Hickory, Black Cherry, and Osage Orange.
The park has other attractions, including the Lake Drummond, Gray-Campbell Farmstead (the oldest cabin in Springfield), Dr. Bill K. Roston Native Butterfly House (open from April to October), and the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden.
The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden was established in 1985 as the oldest site in Springfield Botanical Gardens. The 7.5-acre tranquil haven features Japanese-style landscaping, a tea house, a large koi lake, a moon bridge, and a meditation garden.
Every April, the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival marks the return of this garden area for the year. The beautiful flowers of Yoshino, Kwanzan, and Higan Weeping Cherry trees dominate the blooming season.
The event honors Springfield’s ties to Tlaquepaque, Mexico, and Isesaki, Japan, through its sister city affiliations. The Japanese Stroll Garden welcomes visitors daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. for free. There are also family-friendly live cultural performances.
Park admission is free, but a visit to the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden (outside the festival) costs $4 for adults and $2 for kids aged 3 to 12.
#6 Kiener Plaza, St. Louis
Harry J. Kiener, a member of the American track squad during the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, had the Kiener plaza named in his honor. A circular fountain with a bronze figurative sculpture by William Zorach, “Olympic Runner,” is located in the western part of the site and along the east-west direction of the courthouse.
You can visit the 1.9-acre Kiener Plaza downtown in between your packed itinerary of St. Louis attractions. It’s directly west of the Old Courthouse and was the first open area construction along the Gateway Mall east of Eleventh Street.
Catch the gorgeous blooming sakura trees in April at the Kiener Plaza. The flowers appear particularly lovely when they frame the Old Courthouse and Gateway Arch. The park is reachable on foot from the Stadium and 8th and Pine light rail stops. Alternatively, you can pay to park on city streets or in a neighboring garage.
#7 Japanese Friendship Garden, Kansas
You may easily overlook the Japanese Friendship Garden if you don’t keep an eye out for it while walking along Massachusetts Street. It’s a tiny 90 feet wide by 92 feet deep park next to the Watkins Museum of History. Lawrence Parks and Recreation are in charge of maintenance. It’s a peaceful retreat right in the heart of the city.
Of course, it has a range of plants, including Yoshino cherry trees, mountain pines, bamboo, yews, juniper, peonies, and azaleas. In addition, it contains an arbor house, a stone tower, large rocks, and a Wisteria-covered arbor path.
The Japanese Friendship Garden symbolizes the bond between Hiratsuka, Japan, and Lawrence. It’s construction is to commemorate Lawrence’s sister city relationship’s ten-year milestone.
The City of Hiratsuka donated several items toward the construction of the Japanese Friendship Garden, which was dedicated in October 2000. Hiratsuka contributed a shipment of a lantern and a 15-inch stone tower. About 50 representatives from the city, including Mayor Itsuo Yoshino and nine other city officials, were also at the dedication event.
Delegates from the City of Hiratsuka traveled to Lawrence to assist with the project’s planning, design, and execution. The Parks and Recreation Department staff collaborated with a local Sister Cities Commission team to create the Garden.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/k_samurkas
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.