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Washington, D.C. Tidal Basin showing cherry trees in flower
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Washington, D.C. Tidal Basin showing cherry trees in flower
Cherry tree blossoms
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Cherry tree blossoms

A cherry (originally "cherise" reinterpreted as a plural, from the Old Norman French word, in turn from Latin cerasum) is both a tree and its fleshy fruit, a type known as a drupe with a single hard pit enclosing the seed. The cherry belongs to the family Rosaceae, genus Prunus (along with almonds, peaches, plums, and apricots).

Sweet and sour cherries are different species, P. avium and P. cerasus, respectively. Both species originate in Europe and western Asia, with major commercial orchards extending from Iberia east to Asia Minor; they are also grown to a smaller extent north to the British Isles and southern Scandinavia.

In the United States, most sweet cherries are grown in the West. California and Washington supply mainly sweet cherries intended for fresh use. Major sweet cherry varieties include the Bing, Brooks, Tulare, King, and Rainier. Oregon and Michigan provide light-colored Royal Ann (Napoleon) cherries for the maraschino cherry process. Most tart cherries are grown in four states bordering the Great LakesMichigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

As well as the fruit, cherries also have attractive flowers, and they are commonly planted for their flower display in spring. Some flowering cherry trees (known as 'ornamental cherries') have the stamens replaced by additional petals ("double" flowers), so are sterile and do not bear fruit. They are grown purely for their blossom and decorative value. The Japanese sakura, in particular, is a national symbol celebrated in the yearly Hanami festival.

Cherries have a very short fruiting season. In Australia, they are usually at their peak around Christmas time, and in the UK they are generally ready for picking in early summer. Annual world production (as of 2003) of cherries is about 3 million tonnes (one third are sour cherries).

Cherry blossom is sometimes eaten by the larva of the Green Pug moth and the leaves by the larva of other Lepidoptera including Coxcomb Prominent and Yellow-tail.

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