Both the plum (ume) and cherry (sakura) blossoms feature prominently in Japanese fabric and print patterns. Can you recognize which ones are the plum blossoms and which ones are the cherry blossoms?
The plum blossom is much revered by the Japanese. It blooms in February to early March; that is, around the time when winter is not quite over yet. Only a strong flower can bloom in the bitter cold of winter and therefore, the plum blossom is seen as a symbol of strength and fortitude. Together with pine and bamboo, the plum is one of the Three Friends of Winter (shochikubai 松竹梅) It is also the true harbinger of spring.
The cherry blossom is probably the most loved flower in Japan. It blooms in late March through April. Once blooming, the flowers last for only about a week. During this very special time of year, Japanese people come out and celebrate the blossoms with hanami (flower viewing) parties. There is a carpe diem element to this, a celebration of impermanence in the Japanese psyche.
So now, back to our question: how does one distinguish between the plum and the cherry?
The key is to observe the petals. The plum has round petals. The cherry has indented petals.
Simple as that!
Now you know!
Cherry blossoms are depicted in the 100-yen coin!