Autumn Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) is a small deciduous tree up to 25’ tall. Leaves are 1 ½” to 3” long with scattered hairs on the upper surface and on the veins beneath with double teeth on the margin (edge). Twigs are slender, often dropping, brown, and hairy. Bark is brown with prominent horizontal lenticels (raised pores). Flowers are pink, ½” across, and bloom in early spring before the leaves have expanded. Fruit is 1/3” long and turn from red to black with time. Higan cherry is native to China and has given rise to many ornamental cultivars including the Autumn Higan cherry. All Prunus flowers have 5 petals and 5-lobed sepals, numerous stamens, solitary pistil, superior ovary. Prunus x subhirtella Miquel is a hybrid between Prunus incisa and Prunus pendula. The “Autumnalis” cultivar has semidouble flowers white tinged with pink. These forms flower in winter or early spring making them an essential choice for winter gardens. It is one of the most commonly cultivated forms.
Common name: Autumn Higan Cherry, Winter Flowering Cherry, Spring Cherry, Rosebud Cherry
Scientific Name (family and order): Prunus x subhirtella Miquel ‘Autumnalis’ (Rosaceae, Rosales)
Species Origin: Japan
New Jersey Status: USDA Unreported
Habit: This tree is seldom planted as the species form but usually as the types var. pendula (Maxim) Tanaka or var. autumnalis Mak. Both theses types grow 20 – 40’ with a spread of 15 – 30’. Autumnalis has semi-double (10 petals) pink flowers about ¾” diameter. The habit of this variety is more like the type species with forked trunk and erect twiggy branches with slender whip-like twigs. The pendula variety, Weeping Higan Cherry is usually grafted about 6’ on the understock.; its habit is gracefully weeping with single pink ½” diameter flowers blossoming before the leaves, borne in a 2 – 5 flowered umbel.
Habitat: Zones 4 – 8. Wooded areas with the parental type specimens
Trunk/Stem: Bark gray-brown and smooth banded with horizontal lenticels.
Leaves: Deciduous, Simple. Alternate. Elliptic to ovate in shape, 3” long x 2” wide; tapered tip; margins sharply serrate; top of blade pale bronze early then deep green; below paler. Leaves turn yellow in autumn
Flowers: Perfect. Individual ¼” across, pale pink to white with five petalsnoteched at the tip. Flowers in small clusters. Flowers open before or as the leaves open.
Fruits and seeds: A drupe maturing to a nearly black cherry 1/16” wide; sparsely borne.