This cherry week was pretty exciting, what with Sakura Day celebrations at VanDusen Garden. I got to watch the dedication of the David C. Lam Cherry Grove and unveiling of the haiku rock, as well as talk cherries with the Honourable Dr. Lam, fellow members of Team Sakura and a number of other cherry tree lovers. Dr. Lam delivered an excellent speech—he’s not only a great booster for cherries and the Festival, but also a witty, entertaining speaker. Speaking of good performances, Vancouver’s first Poet-Laureate, George McWhirter, followed, reading out the winning entries in this year’s haiku contest. It was great to hear and see George in action. He had been my wife Karen’s thesis supervisor for her Master’s degree, and the McWhirters were guests at our wedding in 1981. The week was also beset by a few interesting conundrums. ‘Rancho’, the strongly ascending selection of Sargent cherry, Prunus sargentii, has been in bloom in some parts of the city since the spring equinox, and not yet in flower elsewhere. This isn’t so surprising (and not the conundrum). As I’ve postulated before, the “heat-island” phenomenon is undoubtedly responsible for early blooms—this has been repeatedly borne out in the West End of Vancouver, where the cherries are often in full bloom days or even weeks before they are elsewhere in the city. However, flowering in ‘Rancho’ typically follows ‘Akebono’ by at least a week, but this year, the sequence appears to be reversed in most areas (this is the conundrum). Another mystery is the reported appearance of staminodes in ‘Somei-yoshino’ trees at UBC. Staminodes are those distorted, half-petals in the centre of some cherry flowers. ‘Somei-yoshino’ is the seed-parent of ‘Akebono’, so one would expect them to be similar, but I’ve always maintained that the most obvious way to differentiate ‘Akebono’ and ‘Somei-yoshino’ is the presence or absence of staminodes. Before people start thinking that my learned assertions are puffery and that my cherry expertise is a house of cards, I can report that there are several young ‘Akebono’ planted amongst the venerable ‘Somei-yoshino’ on Lower Mall. On the other hand, I suppose it's within the realm of possibility that 'Somei-yoshino' could have the occasional staminode. Nevertheless, I suspect that the staminodes are from the few 'Akebono' trees there. I brought up the fact that there were misplaced 'Akebono' on Lower Mall with UBC’s head gardener. She was apologetically unaware of the difference between the cultivars. Unfortunately, she’d been told that the older trees were ‘Akebono’ and so, used that cultivar to replace trees damaged by construction. Sadly, the reality is that restrictive budgets will probably prevent replanting with ‘Somei-yoshino’. And finally, the miserable ‘Spire’ in front of my in-laws’ house is looking horrible, as predicted. So what’s the conundrum, you ask? Well, I know it’s a ‘Spire’ because the city crew left a nursery label on it. But there are some really attractive cherry trees in Vancouver that knowledgeable people tell me are ‘Spire’. I suppose there are a number of possibilities: 1) there is more than one kind of tree posing as ‘Spire’ in the trade; 2) there are significant microclimatic or environmental effects that cause this cultivar to look either great or terrible; and 3) there is a root-stock effect on ‘Spire’ , which changes its character (rootstocks can confer a number of characteristics to a grafted scion). It’s worth solving this mystery, since local nurseries continue to sell plants under this name, and it would be a shame if my mocking condemnation of the cultivar wasn’t warranted.