The days of trudging through mounds of snow when crossing the street and trying to avoid slipping down the Generational Bridge are past us. As the weather warms up, we’ll be SABSing in front of the High Rises, tossing a frisbee like we’re being photographed for an admissions brochure, and playing Spikeball like nobody’s business. While on–campus seasonal changes have very typical quintessential Penn markers, there’s one symbol of spring Penn students and non–Quakers alike associate with the season. Typically blooming sometime in March or April, cherry blossoms are a traditional Japanese symbol of renewal and delight that can be found on campus, in Philadelphia, and all over the world.
Peak bloom days in the City of Brotherly Love end at roughly April 16 this year. Gifted to Philadelphia by the Japanese government to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the United States, the original 1600 cherry blossom trees across the city have become a springtime staple. The number of cherry blossoms across the city has only grown since then — from 1998 to 2007, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia planted an additional 1000 annually. Some prime locations students should scope out to see some of these trees include Kelly Drive, Drexel Park, and Fitler Square. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival, or Ohanami, typically takes place at Fairmount Park’s Horticultural Center—although it will be virtual this year. It usually includes performances and other family–friendly activities.
This year, all of these activities will be replaced by virtual tours, educational videos about Japanese culture, and flower arranging. Designed like a 17th–century Japanese home, the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden offers visitors the chance to appreciate Sakura, the cherry blossom, as it appears in its home country. As one of Japan’s most well–known tourist attractions and a deeply entrenched part of Japanese culture, the cherry blossom can be found all over the nation during peak bloom time. For students not looking to travel thousands of miles, the Shofuso Garden or any of the public spaces dotted with these blooming cherry trees offer a pretty incredible alternative.
The University's Morris Arboretum is only a 30 minute drive from campus, and offers free admission to all Penn Card holders. With 167 acres of nature including more than 2,500 plant species, visitors can explore paths, ponds, gardens, and, in the spring, stretches of cherry blossom trees. Luckily, for Penn students, the excitement of these magnificent trees can be experienced without ever stepping foot off campus. Officially accredited as an arboretum in April of 2017, Penn’s campus is now home to upwards of 6,500 trees. In 2018, Anthony Aiello, the Gayle E. Maloney Director of Horticulture and Curator of the Morris Arboretum, stated that there were roughly 150 cherry blossom trees on campus, from 20–25 varietals. These beautiful trees can be spotted at various locations throughout Penn, including near the famed LOVE sign and College Hall.
The beauty of the cherry blossom tree is fleeting, as the bloom period only lasts a max of 14 days. Take advantage of their natural magnificence by visiting one of these locations before it’s too late.