National / Science & Health

Kumanozakura recognized as first new species of cherry tree variety in around 100 years


A variety of wild cherry tree found growing in the southern part of the Kii Peninsula is the first new species of the genus Prunus cerasus to be discovered in the country in some 100 years, two forestry groups said this week.

The two bodies — the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute and Wakayama Prefectural Government’s forestry test station — announced Tuesday that they have named the new species Kumanozakura.

The petals of Kumanozakura are mainly a light shade of red, similar to those of Somei-Yoshino, and bloom earlier than those of the cultivated variety.

The leaves are egg-shaped and smaller than those of the Yamazakura and Kasumizakura wild cherry trees also found in the region.

The two organizations classified the Kumanozakura as a new species from characteristics such as the short and hairless stem part at the base of its flower.

A paper on the findings will be included in an edition of the Japanese journal Acta Phytotaxonomica et Geobotanica in late June.

Kumanozakura trees are found in an area about 90 km (60 miles) north to south and 60 km (40 miles) east to west around the Kumano River basin, straddling Nara, Mie and Wakayama prefectures.

The two groups plan to select superior examples of Kumanozakura trees with the aim of establishing a cultivation method.