Plum Blossoms

Prunus mume originated in the south of China around the Yangtze River and was later introduced to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. The tree can be found in sparse forests, beside streams, on forested slopes along trails and mountains, and sometimes at altitudes up to 1,700–3,100 metres.

Due to the beauty of its flowers, the word mai is used to name girls in Vietnam. The largest hospital in Hanoi is named Bach Mai (white plum blossom), another hospital in Hanoi is named Mai Huong (the scent of plum), situated in Hong Mai (pink plum blossom) street. Hoang Mai (yellow plum blossom) is the name of a district in Hamoi. Bach Mai is also a long and old street in Hanoi. All these places are located in the south part of Hanoi, where, in the past, many Prunus mume trees were grown.

I met Mai years ago, though only for one evening. She told me that because of the plum blossom trees in spring she never really felt like an orphan. Her mother had been killed in the Vietnam war, and her father, well, he had been a member of the Korean Tigers, special troops sent to help the Americans out.

“They are like little falling hearts,” she said to me of the plum blossoms, as they drifted softly down on us, under the tree.

she never picks the blossoms
and instead waits under her tree
with upturned straw hat
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