Blossom watch

As blossom starts to reappear to brighten up our new year, we are reminded that in an ever-changing world, nature will always be a source of comfort for many of us. Discover more about these beautiful blooms that you've noticed during #BlossomWatch and the benefits they bring.

In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing where you can see dazzling blossom displays near you, and how we're involving the community in the joys of the season.

In this article:

Blossom is one of the first signs that spring is well and truly on the way, and is a welcome sight of colour after the frosty winter months. From the pinker hues to the cloudy white, these delicate blossoms are a joyful sight and a reminder that warmer days are on their way. 

Blossom is not only beautiful to look at, it also supports a variety of wildlife. Open your window and notice how the warm spring air fluffs up the petals on blossom trees, or take a moment on your daily walk or run to look out for birds that might be attracted to these trees down your street.

Blossom circles will be planted in cities so more people can connect to nature

Helping cities blossom 

We're working with partners like the Greater London Authority to help communities blossom with greener spaces and circles of blossom trees. You can check here for more updates on planting projects.

Blossoming trees in our care

We care for hundreds of trees that blossom in the spring, many of which are historical varieties. This includes the tree said to inspire Newton's theory of gravity and the orchard that Thomas Hardy loved to play in as a child.

In Japan, spring blossom is celebrated with the traditional custom of Hanami, which means ‘flower viewing’ and is an opportunity to take in the beauty of flowers.

Notice the calming effects of spring blossom

Spending time to dwell on nature can improve your wellbeing.  Research shows that just 20 minutes could help to improve your mood. But only six per cent of adults and seven per cent of children take the time to celebrate seasonal events such as the first day of spring.

Take a different route on your daily exercise to see if you can spot blossom in your neighbourhood and embrace the turn of the season. Why not take a quick snap of a blossoming tree and send it to your loved ones to share the moment with others? Or you could join in with #BlossomWatch on social media to spread the joy of spring blossom.

For younger ones, as part of our '50 things to do before you’re 11¾', celebrating blossom could mean you watch a bird singing loudly in a tree (no. 44) or get up for the sunrise (no. 23) to use your daily walk to see how the golden hour lights up blossoming trees down your street in different ways.

Celebrate Hanami wherever you are and connect with nature to lift your spirits, even if it's just for a moment or so.

Identifying spring blossom

Ever wondered when the best time of year is to spot blossom in the UK? We've rounded up different types of blossom in the order of when you can see them, so you know when to keep a look out. 

Willow blossom in spring at Wicken Fen National Trust Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire

Goat willow

There are many types of willow, with some appearing in January, but it’s the goat willow with the clouds of yellow catkins that stand out in March and April. It's often found in damp woodland or near streams and ditches. The grey-brown bark becomes marked over time by diamond-shaped fissures called ‘lenticels’ and the twigs glow red-yellow in winter sunlight.

Close up of blackthorn blossom

Blackthorn

Blackthorn is one of the first shrubs to burst into flower in March. The white blossom appears before the leaves. The tree is short with smooth, dark brown bark and found in hedgerows and scrub in full sun. The tree lasts up to 100 years and was traditionally used for making walking sticks or shillelaghs in Ireland.

When do cherry trees blossom

Cherry

Many garden varieties are of Japanese origin, known as the Sakura or Village Cherries. The British Isles has just two native species: bird cherry and wild cherry or gean. Wild cherry is often seen in woodlands where its brilliant flowers light up the canopy. Cherry blossom is best seen during March, April and some varieties in May.

When do apple trees blossom UK

Apple

Apple blossom appears from March-April and is white with a hint of pink. It grows in hedgerows, gardens, orchards and scrubland in moist, heavy soil. It's a short tree with greyish-brown flecked bark and a gnarled ('crabbed') shape. Crab apple trees often indicate past human habitation – the apples can be used in cooking and the wood is good for carving and firewood.

Blossom on one of the pear trees in the orchard

Pear

Pear trees were introduced to Britain from southern Europe in around AD 995. The trees were popular for their bountiful fruit and beautiful spring blossom. The flowers are white and delicate and emerge from green buds in March or April. While truly wild pear trees are very rare, you'll see domestic varieties in gardens and orchards or lining the streets.

Red admiral butterfly on prunus pissardii (purple leaved plum blossom) in the formal garden at Tyntesfield, Somerset

Plum

Plum trees, thought to have come from a cross between blackthorn and cherry plum, are not only seen in gardens and orchards but also in hedges and areas of scrubland, where plum stones may have been dropped. The flowers are white with five petals and normally bloom in mid-spring, around March and April.

White damson blossom at Brockhampton

Damson

Damson comes from the word 'damascene', which originates in the Latin name 'Plum of Damascus'. Damson trees are thought to have been growing around the Syrian city since ancient times, and were brought to England by the Romans. The trees are small and hardy with leaves covered by a fine down on both sides. They blossom with small white flowers in early April.

Hawthorn in flower at Stockbridge Down, Hampshire

Hawthorn

The fragrant pinkish-white flowers appear in April and May, so it's also known as May flower. It is often found in hedgerows, woodland edges and scrubland. Hawthorn wood is hard and very finely grained and in the past was used for making cabinets, boxes and tool handles. It also makes good firewood and charcoal.

Elderflower blossom

Elder

The clusters of cream Elderflowers appear in late May and June, and the trees they bloom on can be found in woodland, scrub and hedgerows. The bark is grey-brown with a corky furrowed texture. It's thought that the name 'elderflower' comes from the Anglo-Saxon 'aeld', meaning fire. The hollow stems were used to blow air into the centre of a fire.

Codger's Fort on the estate at Wallington, Northumberland

Podcast: A toast to blossom

In our special blossom podcast episode we chat to Andy Beer, author of Every Day Nature, and hear how the arrival of blossom is a date not to be missed on his nature calendar. This episode was recorded before coronavirus and originally published in March 2020.

A showcase of blossom for armchair viewing

" Orchards are the gauge of all the seasons – from bare branches springs new life in the spring, and with the help of pollinating insects, blossom becomes fruit over the summer, which we pick in the autumn and create food and drink, before the trees ‘power down’ for their winter ‘sleep’."
- David Bouch, Head Gardener at Cotehele

Why blossom matters

Children in the orchard at Ardress House, County Armagh, Northern Ireland

Growing wild in orchards we care for

As part of our work to encourage wildlife, we’re planting 68 new orchards on sites in England and Wales by 2025. Traditional orchards are great for wildlife — the trees are planted further apart and wildflowers are often grown underneath them to encourage pollinators to pollinate blossom when the trees flower in spring.

Small tortoiseshell butterfly at Morden Hall Park, London

A vital habitat for birds, bees and badgers

An abundance of wildlife thrives on blossom. Bees seek pollen from wild cherry and apple blossoms. Caterpillars and butterflies love the leaves of goat willow and elderflower blossoms. Song thrushes and blackbirds eat the fruit produced by the trees and hunt for insects among the blossom. Badgers, mice, voles and foxes eat the fruit that falls to the ground.

How you can help support nature

In recent years, we’ve seen how climate change can impact the health of habitats such as blossom. It’s now more important than ever to play our part, big or small, in keeping these homes as healthy havens for wildlife. You can play your part by making a promise for nature and making your garden a place for wildlife to thrive.

From simply letting the grass grow, helping to plant a tree, making seed balls for the birds or building a bug hotel, we’ve got loads of ideas to get you started.

Help the wildlife in your garden Make your promise
Trees in bloom at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral, Bedfordshire

Plant a tree 

Donate to plant a tree and you'll be helping to plant 20 million trees by 2030. You can plant a tree from just £5 and you'll get a certificate to commemorate your gift too. Your dedication will ensure future generations can enjoy these green spaces for ever.