Prunus mume • Japanese Apricot or Plum • ウメ • 梅 • ume
One of the two apricots in our Garden – this one has almost white flower with a just a trace of pink tinge (the other ume is vivid pink). It’s a fairly young tree, about 6-7′ tall, sitting in the middle of the orchard; it blooms mostly in March, although I found a few somewhat worn blossoms still hanging on in early April.
Note: most internet sources show flowers of the ume ‘Dawn’ in pink color, and mostly describe it as pink, not white, although some show flowers similar to ours, almost white. However, almost all the sources describe the flowers as double, which our certainly is – is that what makes it ‘Dawn’? (The other apricot tree in our Garden has flowers that are somewhat smaller and appear single – I read that this highly esteemed by the Japanese tree has hundreds of selections, but only a few are available in the United States.)
Note 2: Internet search for prunus mume ‘Dawn’ links to some pictures of the flower from tree that is commonly called Ornamental plum or Purpleleaf plum (Prunus cerasifera), which is different than our two small apricots in the Garden (P. cerasifera is of the same Rosaceae family, but much bigger of a tree and very popular with landscapers for its profuse pink flowers and attractive dark leaves – lots of Seattle streets are lined with them). I wonder if the pic-confusion comes from the fact that the large prunus genus includes (among others) cherry, almond, plum, peach and apricot, while Japanese name for our tree is ‘ume’ (=plum in Japanese); incidentally the latin word ‘prunus’ also simply means ‘plum’ and not all those other things… I’m certainly confused, but see the quotation below from Arthur Lee Jacobson, who authored ‘Wild Plants of Greater Seattle’ book (one I should definitely read to perhaps get myself de-confused) – he explains some of the confusion.
From Arthur Lee Jacobson (enjoy his entire website – it has many, many interesting articles) : Plant of the Month: March 2005, Japanese Apricot, Prunus Mume […] This species is cultivated primarily as a flowering tree, an ornamental. The Japanese Apricot or Japanese flowering-apricot is also called the Japanese plum tree –a name usually applied in the West to Prunus salicina. Nor is the species native to Japan; it is from China (called “Mei”), Korea, and a variety grows in Taiwan. It was named by Siebold in 1828 (Mume or ume is Japanese vernacular), and introduced by him from Japan to Holland between 1841 and 1844. It has been in North America since 1911 if not before. Uncommon here overall; over the decades at least 34 cultivars have been offered for sale, most little known and very rare. Seven better known and in contemporary commerce are listed below. In addition, a well known hybrid Japanese Apricot bearing purple leaves and double, fragrant pink flowers is Prunus x blireiana.
In Japan Prunus Mume is the Royal Crest, is widely cultivated (more than 300 cultivars), and greatly beloved. It is February’s floral emblem. It is smaller and more slender than the common apricot tree (Prunus Armeniaca), and is usually a low bushy tree to 15 feet tall; but can be twice as tall and just as wide. A specimen received in 1959 at the Los Angeles arboretum was measured in 1993 at 28.5 feet tall, its trunk 3 feet 5 inches in circumference, and its branch spread 27.5 feet wide. The largest I know in Seattle (though not tallest) is currently only 21.5 feet tall, its trunk 3 feet in circumference, and its branch spread 27 feet wide (photographed below).
The flowers are pale pink (varying much in cultivars to snow white, deep pink or red), and are often richly fragrant with sweet spicy odor suggesting a carnation. They bloom relatively early in spring, usually in February or March. Though the wild form has only 5 petals, many cultivars are semi- or fully double, bearing extra petals. After the flowers are done the leaves flush out. […]
From Forestfarm in Oregon: […] Plant Uses: Fragrant Plants; Honey Plants; Bonsai-Suitable; Cut Flowers; Small Flowering Tree; Street Tree. […] A little more about Prunus mume Dawn – Dbl Pnk-fl Ume Apricot: Large, ruffled, double pink flowers make this small tree a standout each spring; generally long-lived, over time the P. mume cultivars can develop the gnarled character of ancient bonsai trees. […]
From Kew Royal Botanical Garden: Prunus mume (mume) • One of China and Japan’s most popular plants, mume blossoms have long been a favourite subject in traditional East Asian art and poetry.[…]
Highly appreciated and admired for its early (January to March in central and southern China) blossoms, Prunus mume has enjoyed great popularity in China and Japan for centuries. It is popular as a bonsai and a ‘must’ in every Japanese-style garden. The world famous Kairaku-en garden in Japan, for example, boasts 3,000 specimens including 100 different cultivars, which create a feast for the eye during the ‘plum blossom’ season in late February/early March. Due to its long history of cultivation and cultural significance, there are more than 300 known cultivars in China, which differ mainly in the colour of their flowers (which can be white, pink, red, purple or light green). […]
This post was lots of fun, might as well finish with haiku – note that the japanese version has word ‘ume’ while the translation says ‘plum’ :).
ne katte ya yo wa sama-zama no ume [no] hana
while I slept–
night unfurled all kinds
of plum blossoms
1805, Kobayashi Issa, translated by David G. Lanoue.