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Chapman Street 'Mathews' crabapple in October

Trees of the Rose Family in Victoria, B.C.

by W. Herb Warren;
edited and lengthened by Arthur Lee Jacobson

    The rose family, ROSACEÆ, contains the widest range of spring flowering trees in the northern hemisphere --hawthorns, mountain ashes, crabapples, laurels, plums, peaches, apricots, almonds and cherries. Outside of Japan there are few areas of the world that can boast of a more beautiful display of flowering cherries and plums than Victoria.
    They are grown here in a wide range of varieties. Some still flourish after being planted before 1900, such as the Mt Fuji cherry at the Parliament Buildings and at 1598 Rockland Avenue. The purpleleaf flowering plum Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' still blooms on the islands in Goodacre Lake, Beacon Hill Park, where it was planted in 1890, only a decade or so after its discovery by Mons. Pissard, gardener to the Shah of Persia. It is not a Japanese plum as many people call it.
Flowering Cherries

    In the early 1930s large quantities of Japanese flowering cherries were imported from Japan by the parks department in Victoria to replace forest trees which had been initially planted on the boulevards and had become too large. Many were also planted in Beacon Hill Park and Ross Bay Cemetery. This largely sparked public interest in them.
    The following cherry trees are listed in order of their blooming period. First to bloom is the Autumn Cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'), a form of the Spring or Higan Cherry (Prunus subhirtella). Depending on the weather, it starts blooming about November, reaching its peak in early spring. The flowers are an airy, delicate pale pink, borne on slender twigs. It grows on the boulevard of St Andrews Street, and Manor Road and southeast of the Burns monument in Beacon Hill Park. The blooms are often used to publicize the mildness of Victoria's climate.
    In late January and early February, the extremely rare Fudan zakura blooms. This has much larger flowers than the Autumn Cherry. Several are in Beacon Hill Park by Goodacre Lake, and it is in Ross Bay Cemetery's northeast corner. It is a form of Prunus serrulata.
    The Higan or Spring Cherry (Prunus subhirtella), is next to bloom, in late February and March in many varieties. A very attractive, well shaped one is at the corner of Burdett Avenue at 750 Cook Street, and on the boulevard at 1060 Southgate Street. The pink form known as 'Rosea' is earliest. It is a beautiful bright pink on a small tree to be seen in Ross Bay Cemetery adjacent to Fairfield Road. 'Whitcombii' is from Washington State and is like 'Rosea' except more vigorous and broader. A good one is in the northeast corner of the Sunken Garden at the Butchart Gardens.
    'Stellata' is a third Prunus subhirtella variety. It is a rare pale pink kind with star-shaped, tightly clustered flowers on a broad tree. It originated in California at the nursery of W. B. Clarke. Beacon Hill Park has one on the north side of the car parking area by the playground. A second grows on the green at St Charles Street and Rockland.Avenue.
    'Fukubana' is a rare double deep pink variety. Some specimens planted in the 1930s are on the Vancouver Street boulevard south of Humboldt Street.
    'Stricta' is, as its name suggests, strictly upright in habit. A small specimen grows on the northwest corner of the green at Fort and Pandora Street.
    The weeping forms of Prunus subhirtella enliven many private gardens. Two of these 'Pendula' varieties are on the stream in Beacon Hill Park below Fountain Lake. The south one, planted in the 1930s, is 15' high, 30' wide, with a 10" trunk and pale pink flowers.
    'Pendula Rubra' has deep pink flowers which open a bit later. Four trees are on Belleville Street on the waterfront west of Oswego Street.
    'Pendula Plena Rosea' is a double pink form, opening still later. It is probably the best of these P. subhirtella weeping varieties and is now being widely planted on streets and in public parks. One about 6 feet tall grows at the home of Reginald Kerr, 4480 Wilkinson Road.
    'Accolade' is an outstanding, vigorous new hybrid between P. subhirtella and P. Sargentii, imported from England in 1952. It has pale pink semi-double flowers, larger than those of unhybridized Spring Cherries. Good examples are on the east side of Douglas Street by Toronto Street, also in Beacon Hill Park on the south side of the entrance road from Douglas and Simcoe streets.
    Prunus x Wadai is an extremely rare pale pink hybrid with an unfortunate tendency to make adventitious shoots at branch joints, thereby becoming an untidy tree of twiggy appearance. There is one behind Burn's monument in Beacon Hill Park.
    Another, even rarer sort is 'Kokonoye', with semi-double pink flowers on a very small tree. One planted near 1050 Benvavenita Drive over 50 years ago by Mr R. P. Butchart is only 10' tall and 18' broad --a useful size for a small garden.
    The first of the famous Yoshino Cherries (Prunus x yedoensis), were planted on Heywood Avenue and Trutch Street boulevards in the early 1930s. Yoshino is upright and spreading with pale pink flowers fading to white, during late March and early April. A specimen is at the main entrance to Ross Bay Cemetery, 21' high with a 36' spread. The largest is in Beacon Hill Park northeast of the bridge on the stream above Goodacre Lake. It is 47' high with a spread of 40' and grows in crowded conditions.
    Sargent Cherry, Prunus Sargentii, is a large, upright flowering Japanese cherry with pink or pale pink flowers blooming in April. The foliage often assumes striking, rich orange fall color. The best specimens are on the boulevard of MacKenzie Street in the Fairfield district, and on Belmont Avenue north of Pandora Street.
    Many named varieties of Japanese flowering cherries were originally classified as varieties of Prunus serrulata. However, it is now believed that most of them are actually hybrids of that with other species. In any case, many were planted on Benvenuto Avenue by Mr R. P. Butchart in the early 1930s, alternated with Yoshino Cherries. Many still remain. In the 1930s and 40s almost forty streets in Victoria were planted with these varieties. Of the numerous varieties sold commercially, the following is a selection of eleven of the best, listed in approximate accordance with their blooming time from late March to late May. As a group, they differ from the P. subhirtella clan in being stockier, with much larger, heavier blooms.
    'Shirotae' or 'Mt Fuji' is earliest, in early- to mid-March. It is wide-growing and seldom over 20' tall. The flowers are pure white, single or semi-double, large and devoid of fragrance.
    'Kiku-shidare-zakura' or 'Cheal's Weeping Cherry' is an attractive small weeping kind with deep pink, very double flowers. A good example is in the Butchart Sunken Garden by the lake. The twigs are coarse and heavy unlike those of the weeping Spring Cherry.
    'Kwanzan' or 'Sekiyama' is the most popular Japanese flowering cherry. It is upright spreading in habit and bears heavy masses of deep double pink flowers with bronze-coloured young foliage. It is planted on about 30 boulevard streets including Mars Street, Menzies Street, and Rockland Avenue.
    'Hisakura' is another upright spreading pink variety, but blooms before 'Kwanzan' and has almost single flowers. It is rare. Some are on the Empire Street boulevard.
    'Tai Haku' the "Great White Cherry," is upright spreading and single white, with its flowers sometimes two inches and a half in diameter --the largest of all cherries. It, too, is seen at the Butchart Sunken Garden.
    'Ukon' is a robust tree with semi-double pale creamy flowers tinged green, becoming flushed pink as they age. No other cherry blossom appears so yellowish. It may be seen on Oliphant Street.
    'Pink Perfection' originated in England and has attractive double rosy pink flowers in long drooping clusters, with its young leaves bronze. It is probably superior to 'Kwanzan' (which is one of its parents).
    'Shimidsu-zakura' is also called 'Shogetsu' and it does "sure get you!" It is a very small, widespreading tree with double pure white flowers in long-stalked clusters of unusual elegance, blooming late.
    Two very late bloomers are 'Shiro-fugen' and 'Fugenzo.' 'Shiro-fugen' is a strong-growing widespreading variety with double pink flowers in long stalked clusters which are long lasting, fading white. It is one of the best. It is on the boulevard on Hilda Street. During a sudden cold snap on November 11th 1955, many trees elsewhere were killed.
    'Fugenzo' resembles 'Kwanzan' but with a broad flat-topped head.
    Latest and probably the best double pink is the obscure 'Kiku-zakura' which lasts well into May. It is seen at the south end of the Japanese Garden of the Butchart Gardens.
    An ornamental type of the Gean or Mazzard Cherry (Prunus avium), is the double form 'Plena.' The blossoms are pure white, the tree very large and vigorous. It can be seen on the boulevard of Oxford Street.
    A rare, very old ornamental cherry known to have been cultivated in England since the 16th century, is a double form of the Sour Cherry: Prunus Cerasus 'Rhexii.' It is on the east end of Leighton Avenue by Foul Bay Road.
    An interesting form of the Choke Cherry introduced from North Dakota in 1943 is Prunus virginiana 'Schubert.' Specimens may be seen at the Butchart Gardens. Its leaves emerge green in spring before turning deep purple, and numerous upright clusters of small white flowers blossom in May.

Flowering Plums

    Amongst the plums, Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii' (also called 'Atropurpurea') is one of the most widely used flowering trees in Victoria. It makes a spectacular show of white blossoms in early March, followed by its purple foliage. It exists on about 40 streets in Victoria and many in Oak Bay and Esquimalt. It is hard to say where the best specimen is because there are so many. The first ones were planted on boulevards on Cornwall and Burdett Street about 1910. Most have finished their lifespan and have been replaced. A very large one is in Quadra Park.
    The purple-leaved pink flowering plum, Prunus cerasifera 'Nigra,' is a lovely, nicely shaped tree planted on many boulevards in greater Victoria, notably Woodstock Avenue near Cook and Dallas Road. It originated in the U.S.A. It blooms later than Pissard's plum and its leaves are darker purple.
    Prunus x blireiana is another pink-flowering purpleleaf plum, noteworthy for its double, fragrant, deep pink flowers borne on a very small, twiggy tree. It is a cross between 'Pissardii' and a variety of Japanese Apricot (Prunus Mume). Blireiana plums may be seen on the Meares Street boulevard, and in Oak Bay on many side streets east of Foul Bay Road north of Fort Street. Probably the best one is at 3054 Doncaster Drive.
    Prunus cerasifera 'Lindsayae' is a single-flowered pink plum with green leaves. This rare, beautiful, large-growing variety is only to be seen on city boulevards, notably Richmond Avenue below Richardson, Pearl Street and Gorge Road; also recently planted on View Street. Largest is one behind the concert stage in Beacon Hill Park, 47' high and 45' wide.
    All of these plums bloom in late February or early March, 'Lindsayae' and 'Pissardii' being first out.

Other Prunus

    The English Laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus) and the Spanish or Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica), are two evergreen shrubs which can grow into tree proportions easily. A multistemed English Laurel dating back to 1890 is at the southeast corner of the south end of Goodacre Lake in Beacon Hill Park. It is 40' in height and has a 54' spread.
    Two colorful but weak-growing trees are the Japanese Apricot (Prunus Mume), and the Flowering Peach/Almond cross known as 'Pollardii.' Both bloom in March, the apricot being first. The peach/almond hybrid is on the east side of the road north of Goodacre Lake Bridge; its blossoms are palest pink and very large. The apricot grows at 5247 Pat Bay Highway, opposite Elk Lake, and has deep red flowers.


    There are innumerable flowering crabapples. One of the oldest and best known is the Japanese Crab (Malus floribunda). Several grow in the Sunken Garden at the Butchart Gardens, and on Ida Street in Victoria. The flowers, during late April and May, are deep pink-red in their bud stage, and open to pale pink, smothering the tree in a lightly fragrant cloud. Small yellow fruit ripens in autumn. The 'Lemoinei' Crab has deep wine colored flowers and purplish young foliage; it is on the 1100 block of Chapman Street. Although its bark is pretty, and its broad branching pattern commendable, 'Lemoinei' lacks attractive fruit and is very scab-susceptible. 'Eleyi' is similar in flower color but has showy red fruit, on Trent and Victor Streets. Two varieties with long-lasting colorful fruit are 'Mathews' (really 'Gibbs Golden Gage'; see Plant-of-the-Month December 2003) with lemon-yellow fruit on the 1200 block of Chapman Street, and 'Zumi' with red berries on Bank Street.


    The English Hawthorn (Cratægus Oxyacantha or Cratægus lævigata), is the most popular here; but it is not planted as much today as it used to be, because of its susceptibility to disease and insect pests. Its variety 'Paul's Scarlet' with double, red flowers, was planted on 35 streets in Victoria. May Street is a good example. 'Plena' is a double white to be seen on Belleville and Oxford Streets. Both bloom in May. An attractive double pink form which makes a pleasing contrast to the other colors when planted nearby is 'Rosea Flore Pleno.' Of unusual interest is a hybrid characterized by large, long-lasting orange-red fruit which makes the tree handsome in fall and early winter: Cratægus x Lavallei, seen in the 1800 block of Deman Street east of Fernwood. The fruit last until March sometimes, and the leaves are retained until December. Victoria's native species is the Black or Douglas Hawthorn (Cratægus Douglasii). An old, impressive example is by the steamship dock (north of Belleville Street). The native species makes black berries which ripen in summer and attract birds; its bark is shreddy and pale.

Mountain Ashes

    The final group of flowering trees in this immense family is the Mountain Ashes, Rowans and Whitebeams, all species of Sorbus. Sorbus aucuparia is the Common Mountain Ash. It has compound leaves consisting of 11-17 leaflets like those of other ash trees, but bears many tiny creamy white flowers in May, following the flush of fresh foliage. Then in summer and autumn the red-orange peasize berries are showy. This common European species was planted on upper Yates Street. An extremely rare, bold Chinese cousin is the Sargent Mountain Ash (Sorbus Sargentiana), with comparatively immense leaves and small but numerous berries. The winter buds are red, glossy, huge and sticky, reminding one of horse chestnut in this respect. A couple of small specimens are in the north part of Beacon Hill Park; they need more summer moisture to thrive. The rare Hupeh Mountain Ash (S. hupehensis), is also a Chinese species, with small palest pink or nearly white berries borne on red stems. A couple grow in the Butchart Gardens. The Whitebeam (Sorbus Aria), Swedish Whitebeam (S. intermedia) and the Finnish Whitebeam (S. x thuringiaca) are in Beacon Hill Park east of Fountain Lake. The Swedish Whitebeam is also at Goldstream Region Museum. Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' produces numerous very small yellow berries set against dark autumn leaf colour; it is very rare, but six line Southgate Street by the northwest part of Beacon Hill Park.

[Warren's article, as edited by John W. Neill, appeared on pages 68 - 70 of Trees of Greater Victoria: A Heritage (1988). Since Warren wrote the article in 1985 or earlier, some of the trees mentioned are now (October 1990) gone. The version above, lengthened by Arthur Lee Jacobson, was published in Island Grower magazine. It is not a complete account of Rose Family trees in Victoria --still other cherries, crabapples, hawthorns and mountain ashes can be found in the area. Almond (Prunus dulcis), Quince (Cydonia oblonga), Medlar (Mespilus germanica), Serviceberry (Amelanchier), as well as Pear (Pyrus), are additional tree members of the Rose family present in Victoria.
A revised edition of the Heritage Tree book may do these trees justice.]


Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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