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Blossom in the valley

As Spring approaches, and the birds begin to sing, you may have noticed blossom starting to appear across Ouseburn valley – particularly white blossom. From Ouseburn Farm to Saint Ann’s Church, there’s a stunning show to be discovered this year, but exactly which tree is it that’s in flower?

In the UK the first tree to blossom is usually Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera), a non-native species – originating from South East Europe – this deciduous tree has long been grown on our soil. Cherry Plum flowers are a stunning white, and begin to appear at this time of year offering a visual and fragrant treat in the urban landscape!

These clouds of white flowers can be confused by another, native species of plum tree – the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). A key ingredient of scrubby habitats, this small deciduous tree creates a tangle of spikey foliage, and is a favourite of nesting Long-tailed Tits. 

Blackthorn flowers slightly later than Cherry Plum, but – as I write – they can both now be found flowering across Wild Ouseburn. Here’s a handy little tip for identifying the two species by their flowers:

Once the flower has opened up, if you peer underneath it to look at the sepals (the green bits which originally enclosed the flowers), you’ll see a particular difference…

In Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) the sepals fold backwards towards the stem.

Cherry Plum flowers, note the sepals bending backwards towards the stem.

Whereas in Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) the sepals hug the bottom of the petals.

Blackthorn flowers, note sepals hugging petals.

Have you spotted any Cherry Plum or Blackthorn in blossom across Wild Ouseburn? Send us your sightings, or record them on the Wild Ouseburn iNaturalist project.

(If you’d like to find out how to setup iNaturalist we’ve created a handy blog here)

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