Why are there so many cherry trees in Washington?

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There are 3800 flowering cherry trees in Washington, DC. They have been part of the city's landscape for over a century, ringing the Tidal Basin and framing some of the city's most famous monuments. Their presence dates to 1912 when the mayor of Tokyo, in a gesture of friendship, made of gift of over 3000 cherry trees from the capital of Japan to the capital of the United States.

In Japan the flowering cherry tree, known as the sakura, is a beloved national symbol. According to National Geographic, the sakura is as central to Japanese culture as baseball is to America. The sakura produces a breathtaking but brief display of blossoms. In Japan, it represents the transient beauty of nature. In Washington, the cherry trees have come to represent the beginning of spring.

These pink and white flowering trees do not bear fruit; they live for about 25-50 years. Most of the original trees are gone, but two remain. They can be seen at the base of the Washington Monument, along with a plaque commemorating their planting in 1912.

Over the years, additional gifts from the people of Japan as well as cuttings taken from the originals have renewed Washington's collection of cherry trees. They are the responsibility of the National Parks Service (NPS), whose workers take great pride in the care of these trees.

In 1999 there was a series of high profile attacks on Washington's cherry trees in which several were chopped down. After careful investigation and analysis of photographic evidence, the NPS determined that a family of beavers was living in the Tidal Basin and using the cherry trees to build a dam. After placement of humane traps, the beavers were taken into custody and relocated to a more hospitable location. The cherry trees continue to thrive.

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Posted on March 5, 2017 .