Characteristics of Japanese Alpine Cherry (Prunus nipponica) in the Wild

Prunus nipponica
The Japanese alpine cherry (Prunus nipponica) is a species of shrub native to Hokkaido and Honshu, in Japan. It is one of the toughest cherry trees, perfect for cold climates.

The Japanese call this tree by the name Takanezakura (高嶺桜), but because this tree often grows in the mountains it is also called Minezakura.

This species was first reported by the Japanese botanist Jinzō Matsumura in the Tokyo Botanical Magazine in 1901. It is in the Pseudocerasus section of the cherry subgenus Cerasus of the Prunus genus, which is an ornamental plant.

Ma et al classified it in one group with Prunus incisa.

Prunus nipponica is included in the “List of Protected Animals and Plants in the Wildlife Protection Zone” in the wild at the Shirakami-Sanchi World Heritage Site.


There are at least three varieties recorded, including:

  • Prunus nipponica var. nipponica
  • Prunus nipponica var. curriculum
  • Prunus nipponica var. chishima-zakura


Characteristics of Japanese Alpine Cherry Leaf

Prunus nipponica Leaf
Source: Golik

The leaves are deciduous and have serrations all over the sides.


Characteristics of Japanese Alpine Cherry Flower

Prunus nipponica Flower

The flowers are single, about 2-3 cm in diameter, and the color of the petals is pink, then darkens towards the flower core.

The flowering season is late in the highlands and earlier in the lowlands. In its natural habitat, the tree blooms in early May, in the alpine zone in June, and lasts in bloom on Honshu. When planted in Tokyo, the flowering season is in early April, but it usually wilts due to the high temperatures and drought in summer.


Characteristics of Japanese Alpine Cherry

Prunus nipponica Fruit

The fruit is like a microphone, has a long and round stalk at the end. All are red and emerge from the leaf axils.


Characteristics of Japanese Alpine Cherry Tree

Prunus nipponica Tree
Source: Gissurardottir

Japanese alpine cherry grows as the most cold-resistant wild cherry tree that grows naturally in Japan. If planted in lower ground and the environment is good, it will grow into a small tree up to 10 meters high. However, if they grow in high altitudes and windy, the growth will be a low shrub that never exceeds 2 meters.

Japanese alpine cherry grows best in areas with an elevation of 1500-2800 m asl.


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