Weeping Higan cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘pendula’) is a small deciduous tree with a weeping crown and slender whip-like branches. Leaves are alternative, oval shaped. Flowers are pale pink and appear before the leaves. Native to Japan, the weeping Higan cherry was first introduced to the United States in about 1862. A beautiful ornamental tree that rapidly grows and shows a dramatic floral display in early spring. Prunus type specimen has 5 petals and 5-lobed sepals, numerous stamens, solitary pistil, superior ovary. Although we have followed the species designation given by Dirr (2009) in this discussion some students refer to this plant as Prunus x subhirtella Miquel, a hybrid of Prunus incisa and Prunus pendula. The ‘Pendula” cultivar presents single pale pink flowers borne on weeping branches. It was introduced to the West in the 1860’s via Arnold Arboretum. These forms flower in winter or early spring making them an essential choice for winter gardens. The Japanese name for this tree is Ito Zakura, where the word Ito mean “thread” referring to the pendulous thread-like branchlets that reach to the ground. These sweeping forms need pruning to lift the branches from the ground.
Common name: Weeping Higan Cherry
Scientific Name (family and order): Prunus subhirtella var. pendula (Maxim) Tanaka (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.
Haitat: 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 petals notched at the tip. Flowers in small clusters. Flowers open before or as the leaves open.
Fruits and seeds: Nearly black cherry (drupe) 1/16” wide; sparsely borne