In many cities where a cherry blossom festival takes place, one cherry tree was selected as the “index tree” (Tokyo) or “indicator tree” (Washington D.C.) This tree is monitored closely. When over 70% of flowers are in bloom, it’s declare that cherry trees are officially in bloom in the city.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival does not have an official indicator tree, but this year the Akebono trees in Maple Grove Park, at the corner of SW Marine Drive and Yew Street, were designated as the Vancouver location for the purpose of the First International Cherry Blossom Prediction Competition and people were invited to predict the blooming date.

Douglas Justice monitors the trees and will declare the official blooming date. In a sense, you could say this location serves as our indicator tree for this year.

In the past, since the festival didn’t have an official indicator tree I selected my own. My personal indicator tree was an Akebono tree overlooking the plaza at Burrard skytrain station (#29 on this Akebono cherry trees at Burrard Skytrain interactive map).

Burrard skytrain station March 25 2013

In the days preceding the Cherry Jam concert, I observed the expanding buds. I tried to determine, just for fun, if the blossoms would be in bloom for the kick-off date of the festival.

Akebono chery buds at Burrard skytrain

Two years ago, I selected a tree closer to my home to continue to observe the beautiful transformation from buds to bloom.

Here’s how you can select your own personal indicator tree:

  • Chose an Akebono tree on the neighbourhood map
  • Observe the different stages of blooming
  • When your tree is 70% in bloom, then you can declare that cherry trees are officially in bloom in your neighborhood

Afterwards, notice how the leaves grow, how they turn orange in autumn, and when the buds grow back in the spring. It’s cherry blossom season again!