Spring is in the air and Toronto's sakura trees, also known as cherry blossoms, are in full bloom in High Park.
The blossoms on Cherry Hill in High Park started to bloom last Friday a bit behind schedule because of a cooler start to the season. But Sunday's warmer weather prompted up to 70 per cent of blossoms to open up, according to the High Park Nature Centre.
The centre says this year has been a roller coaster ride for blooming as temperatures have been rising and falling almost daily. Warm spring weather encourages cherry trees to bloom early, while cooler spring temperatures delay bloom time.
The milder temperatures also brought droves of people from across the region, with Monday drawing the largest turnout when the high was 10 C.
Diana Teal, executive director at the High Park Nature Centre, said there were "thousands and thousands" of sakura enthusiasts coming out to see the eye-catching, little white and pink blossoms in their prime stage on Monday.
"The popularity of High Park's cherry blossoms has grown exponentially over the past 10 years," Ms. Teal says.
This is the first time in a while that admirers have had a chance to get snapshots of the delicate flowers. Last year, many of the buds were damaged by frost that followed an early April snowstorm, resulting in an underwhelming year. Flowering cherry blossoms will not bloom if they are affected by freezing temperatures in their early stage.
During the winter, the closed flower buds can withstand below-freezing temperatures but begin to form as the temperature increases. Prolonged cold temperatures signal to the blossoms to stay closed, ultimately preventing their bloom.
"Peak bloom is an extraordinarily beautiful sight to see after a long grey winter," Ms. Teal said.
James Heron, executive director of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, said what makes the cherry blossom trees appealing in Japanese culture is that the short blooming period allows people to appreciate nature and life in general.
"A fundamental concept in Japanese culture and psyche is the concept of mono no aware [an empathy toward things]," said Mr. Heron. "It combines a sense of sadness or wistfulness with an awareness of the importance of appreciating the beauty in the moment.
"Sakura trees are a perfect example of this. Blooming for a short time and dying at the height of that beauty," he added.
The first sakura trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting relocated Japanese-Canadians after the Second World War. The Japanese ambassador to Canada in 1959, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2,000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo.
On Monday afternoon, admirers on Cherry Hill expressed their amazement at the flowers in peak bloom.
"Cherry blossoms are a significant part of Japanese culture. It is kind of a ceremonial thing that symbolizes change or renewal. I am happy I am able to come out and enjoy the day and get to take photos of them," said sakura enthusiast and Toronto resident Linda Lee.
"I heard that the cherry blossoms were blooming this week so I wanted to see it for myself. It's a once-in-a-year opportunity," said Anna Ko, another admirer in High Park.
The cherry blossoms on Cherry Hill were expected to last until Sunday, provided there's minimal rain and wind. But rain – and possibly a thunderstorm – are forecast for Thursday.
Other places to find sakura trees around Toronto are Broadacres Park in Etobicoke, Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Centre Island and the park outside of the Robarts Library on the University of Toronto's St. George campus.