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Garden Talk

Close-up of dwarf Fuji cherry flowers with zig-zag branching

Botanical name: Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'
Common name: Dwarf Fuji cherry
Family name: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Native range: Japan
Location in Duke Gardens: Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, Historic Gardens
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8

By Katherine Hale

Marketing & Communications Assistant

Close-up of a dwarf Fuji cherry in flower in the Terrace Gardens

While the allée of Yoshino cherry trees (Prunus × yedoensis ‘Akebono’) at the main entrance to Duke Gardens immediately grabs visitors’ attention when in full bloom, there are many other beautiful ornamental cherries scattered throughout both the Historic Gardens and the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum. With approximately 430 species in the genus Prunus, as well as thousands of cultivars, selections, and hybrids specifically grown for their blooms, the collections here only scratch the surface of the sheer diversity of ornamental cherries, focusing on those that do especially well in the North Carolina Piedmont.

One of these lesser-known cherries is the dwarf Fuji cherry (P. incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’, sometimes sold as Little Twist®), a small and compact cultivar with twisting curves to its branches. Instead of a mass of flowers high up in the canopy, the flowers of the dwarf Fuji cherry are at eye-level, making it easy to appreciate them up close. Like many dwarf trees, its slow growth and mature height of 8 feet make it an excellent choice for gardens that are too small for a full-grown regular cherry tree, as well as patios, rock gardens and containers.

In the wild, Fuji cherry is found on the main Japanese island of Honshu in the Tokyo and Kansai regions. It is particularly abundant in the region surrounding the iconic Mount Fuji, hence its common name. It was one of the many species of Japanese ornamental cherries collected by the English botanist Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram and grown on his estate in Kent. A world authority on the subject, Ingram’s efforts to propagate and preserve a number of rare varieties of cherry are documented in a 2019 book, "The Sakura Obsession," by Naoko Abe, that is a must-read for any lover of cherries.

With all cherry trees, the window for peak bloom is brief, and the dwarf Fuji cherry is no exception. Look for it interplanted with tulips and other spring bulbs in the Terrace Gardens, as well as at the peaceful waterfalls of Pine Clouds Mountain Stream in the Ruth Mary Meyer Japanese Garden. In addition, many popular hybrids have Fuji cherry as a parent, including P. ‘Snow Goose’, a cross between P. incisa and the related Oshima cherry (P. speciosa var. speciosa) that is also a part of the Gardens’ collection.


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Photos from top: Close-up of dwarf Fuji cherry flowers in Pine Clouds Mountain Stream in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum, by William Hanley; a dwarf Fuji cherry shrub in flower in the Terrace Gardens, by Orla Swift.