1 April 2021

Signs of spring around the world

Every year around the world, spectacular displays of plants mark the arrival of spring.

By Grace Brewer

Tulip field with colourful flowers

Spring has arrived across the northern hemisphere, along with the welcome promise of longer, warmer days and an explosion of new life.

Around the world, plants announce the new season. Some even host whole festivals.

From daffodils to cherry blossoms, here we take you through some of the most striking signs of spring.

Japanese cherry (Prunus serrulata)

Come spring, flowering Japanese cherry trees (Sakura) put on a spectacular display of delicate white, pink, and even green blossoms.

In Japan, the beautiful blooms herald the start of spring and symbolise life, good health, and happiness.

Huge crowds gather each year to view cherry blossoms - a tradition known as ‘hanami’ (‘flower viewing’).

Cherry blossom festivals (sakura matsuri) are also held in many parts of the country.

Stroll along the Cherry Walk at Kew anytime from March to May to experience this wonder of the pant world.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

You probably recognise turmeric as the bright, orange-yellow spice in your kitchen cupboard.

This popular spice comes from the underground stems of the turmeric plant, and so does a vibrant dye.

Turmeric (haridra, haldi) dye is very popular during the Hindu ‘Festival of Colours’, Holi, which marks the start of spring.

Festivities include people covering themselves and others with brightly-coloured powders and water, to celebrate good triumphing over evil.

You can spot turmeric by taking a trip to our Palm House.

Green turmeric leaves in Kew's Palm House
Turmeric in Kew’s Palm House, Will Spoelstra © RBG Kew
Turmeric rhizomes in Kew’s Economic Botany Collection
Turmeric rhizomes © RBG Kew

Garlic (Allium sativum)

Garlic has been cultivated around the world for thousands of years.

Its aromatic bulbs are renowned for their distinctive flavour and medicinal properties.

Garlic plays a symbolic role in Persian New Year, Nowruz.

Nowruz is a celebration of the arrival of spring and marks the first day of the Iranian calendar.

One of the traditions performed on Nowruz involves decorating a Haft-sin table with seven items beginning with the letter ‘s’ in Farsi, each representing a hope for the new year. Garlic (seer, in Farsi) is one of them, to represent medicine and good health.

White bulbs of garlic 'picardy wight' cultivar
Garlic 'Picardy Wight' bulbs, Andrew McRobb © RBG Kew

Daffodils (Narcissus)

Daffodils colour gardens and parks with vibrant yellows during early spring in the UK.

They are sometimes called lent lilies as they often bloom between Ash Wednesday and Easter, but they are not lilies at all.

Daffodils belong to the Amaryllidaceae family, the same plant family as another spring favourite, snowdrops.

Spot these bursts of sunshine at Kew along the Great Broad Walk Borders, surrounding the Temple of Aeolus and in the Natural area.

At Wakehurst, you can find vibrant pockets of daffodils on the banks of the Mansion Pond, across the manicured lawns and near the Asian Heath Gardens.

Did you know?

Daffodils (Narcissus) are thought to have been named after a man called Narcissus from an Ancient Greek myth who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. The way daffodil flowers bend towards the ground symbolises Narcissus leaning over the water to admire himself.

Daffodils in spring at Kew
Daffodils (Narcissus) in spring at Kew © RBG Kew
Cluster of yellow daffodils
Daffodils, Zoe Stewart © RBG Kew

Tulips (Tulipa)

The Netherlands is famous for its rolling fields of colourful tulips in springtime.

Though many wild species of tulip actually originated from Central Asia.

Tulips were cultivated in Istanbul as early as 1055 and by the 15th century were one of the most prized flowers in opulent gardens belonging to Sultans of the Ottoman Empire.

Later during the 17th century, tulips were considered expensive luxury items by some in Dutch society. Tulip bulbs could sell for incredibly high prices, even costing more than houses. 

Today, though considerably more affordable, tulips are valued by gardeners the world over for their striking flowers that come in a rainbow of colours and variety of shapes.

Tulips at the Nash Conservatory
Tulips in front of the Nash Conservatory, Ellen McHale © RBG Kew
Tulips outside Temperate House in spring
Tulips outside Temperate House in spring © RBG Kew

Check out the signs of spring on your doorstep or visit Kew to take a trip around the world and see how many you can spot.

Cherry blossom near the Temperate House in spring

Visit Kew Gardens

Immerse yourself in spring at our beautiful botanic Gardens.

Read & watch