Cherry trees, and cherry blossoms
High Park attracts many visitors in early spring to admire the beautiful cherry blossoms. Many people ask about the best time to see the cherry trees in full bloom: your best bet is to pay a visit in late April or early May.
Most of the Sakura cherry trees are located around Hillside Gardens (click the link to see a highlighted area on the map) and there are a few by the Duck Pond as well.
Cherry blossoms last for about a week to a week and a half if the weather is nice but if it rains while they are in bloom then the flower petals fall quicker and the blooming may be over in just a few short days. Some years - not too often - if the wather is unusually cold in April then the trees may not bloom at all since Toronto's climate is about as cold as the Sakura trees can tolerate. Read about 2014 holidays in Canada to help you plan your visit.
The pictures in the slideshow are from April 18, 2010 when I visited the park in the morning hours. Good thing I came early because by 10am there was no parking left and the park was flooded with photographers.
When you're in the park to take pictures of just to look at the beautiful trees, please consider that High Park is not just about cherry trees - be careful and watch your step so you don't accidentally destroy other plants even when there is a big crowd at the park.
Sakura at Toronto Islands
It's a little known fact that there are 30 Japanese Cherry trees at Toronto Islands. They were planted in 2011. If you want to avoid the large crowd at High Park when the trees are blooming a great alternative is to go see the trees at the Islands. They are on Centre Island located at the south end of the bridge near the fountain. It's about a 10 minute walk from the Centre Island ferry docks.
Visiting when the trees are in full bloom
Some tips for your visit and a few other things to keep in mind:
- Don't break off branches from the trees! Not even small ones.
- Parking will be horrible inside the park - too many cars, long traffic jams, honking, frustrated drivers. Take transit! Or park outside the park.
- If you park illegally and you get a ticket do not complain about it.
- If you can, plan your visit for a weekday.
- There aren't enough washrooms for the amount of people that are in the park when the trees are blooming.
- You don't have to bring your crying two year old child and two dogs when the crowd is the biggest. (And I say this as a father of a crying two year old and two dogs). It'll be so much easier for everybody if you go during off-peak hours.
You can also check out Steve's website that tracks the Sakura blooming, including frequent picture updates.
A brief history of the Sakura trees
Sakura trees also known as cherry blossom trees are known for their elegance and beauty. Unfortunately they are also known for their short blooming periods.
Approximately one week after the first blossoms appear, 'kaika', 'full bloom' or 'mankai' is achieved.
The first Japanese Somei-Yoshino Cherry Tree was planted here in 1959 and it was present from the citizens of Tokyo. These trees are the earliest to bloom and are much loved for their fluffy pink and white flowers. Another 34 cherry trees were donated to High Park in 2001 from the Sakura project. Other cherry trees were also donated to other locations around the city, for example Exhibition Place and various universities such as McMaster University, York Uni and the U of T.
Did you know that cherry blossoms and leaves are actually edible? They are used in Japan to bring out flavour in traditional confectioneries and buns. They are also drunk in place of green tea at special events and festivities.
Please note that the leaves do contain coumarin, so, it is not recommended to eat them in large quantities. Coumarin has a pleasant and sweet odor, but has a bitter taste. It can be toxic to the liver and kidneys in very high dosages.