Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sakura, Part 1

     Sakura, cherry trees famous in Japan for their beautiful floral displays and organic form, can also be appreciated for their bark.  In northern Honshu, within the area known as Tohoku, craftsmen gather cherry tree bark and use it to carefully craft small household items of beauty.  Often encountered are the canisters used to store tea, tea scoops, and jewelry boxes; prices range from around $5 for simple tea scoops, to over $100 for larger items.
Typical Tea Canister†
The shiny, redish material is the inner bark.

Unpolished Tea Canister ‡
Although the typical horizontal bands found on many cherry species is still visible, this canister was created using the outer bark.

 Picture Sources:

     As a member of the Rose Family (Rosaceae), the cherry tree is closely related to apples, hawthorne, pears, and plums.  These plants generally share common features such as terminal end buds and 5-petaled flowers.

Plum tree with typical Rosaceae flowers.

Plum tree showing bark.

     This in one area in which the specially bred Sakura cherry trees can differ with the rest of its family: very showy, multi-petaled flowers.  Sakura are cherry trees that don't produce [edible] fruit, having been selected over the centuries for ornamental purposes.
Full flowers of an ornamental Sakura tree;
horizontally-striated bark also shown.
A close-up of the leaves and flowers of one Sakura, used as landscaping in Virginia.

This sakura, found in Morioka, Japan, is so old and large that it not only
needs supports to keep it standing, it also split the boulder
on which it originally grew (in a small crack on the rock's surface).
     Although useless for fruit production, the iconic Sakura is famous throughout Japan and in many other lands for its flowers and form.  Hopefully, you now appreciate its bark as well. 


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