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The American Version of Sakura

I admit: I was more than a bit jealous when I saw my friends posting photos of their visit to sakura in Japan. There's not much more beautiful than all those trees in bloom. If you can't make it to Japan, you can get a taste of sakura right here in Singapore at Gardens by the Bay this year. The trees are simply stunning.

And of course, the US has its own version of American sakura with 3,000 cherry trees in Washington DC. Did you know there's a bit of controversy with the American cherry trees this year?

Cherry blossoms around the Jefferson Memorial

Saying Goodbye

The fuss over the Washington trees this year is that 150 of the trees from the Tidal Basin around the Jefferson Memorial have to be dug up and turned into mulch. What?! Yup, it's true.

Simply, the trees were planted on a seawall that is now failing. Originally constructed in the late 19th century, the seawall has seen considerable settlement in some places, more than five feet in some areas. At the same time, the sea level is rising as much as a foot in the tidal basin. (Thanks, climate change.) So there is now water six feet above where the original seawall was intended to keep it out and water sometimes comes in over the sidewalk as much as ten feet! The result is that some of the trees are living on islands.

Stumpy, the tree


One long-time favorite is a sad-looking tree known affectionately as Stumpy. This tree only has a couple of branches hanging off, yet somehow manages to still bloom annually. Stumpy is kind of an inspirational celebrity... the tree that just won't quit. Sadly, Stumpy is also slated to be turned to mulch. But don't worry: Stumpy will live on. The plan is to propagate some clippings from Stumpy this year to provide genetic matches of that specific tree so that – in spirit, anyway – Stumpy can live on elsewhere on the mall. Isn't science, cool?

A Gift of Friendship

The story of the cherry trees in Washington, DC. traces back to a sweet tale of international friendship. In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry trees to Washington as a symbol of goodwill and friendship between the United States and Japan. These trees found their new home along the picturesque banks of the Potomac River, particularly around the Tidal Basin, where they have flourished and become an big part of the city's landscape.

Cherry blossoms in Washington DC
The Blossoming Spectacle

Every year, as winter bows out and spring blows in, hoards of locals and tourists alike come to see the stunning cherry blossoms. Typically occurring in late March to early April, the blossoming season heralds a time of celebration and renewal. The delicate petals unfurl, creating a breathtaking canopy of soft pink and white against the backdrop of iconic monuments and landmarks. So hey, if you don't get to Japan to see the blossoms, maybe you can make it to DC.

A Symbol of Renewal

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, cherry blossoms hold significant cultural and symbolic value. In Japanese culture, the cherry blossom, or sakura, symbolizes the transient nature of life and the beauty of fleeting moments. It serves as a poignant reminder to cherish the present and embrace the ever-changing seasons of life.

Embracing Tradition

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually in Washington, DC, embodies the spirit of celebration and unity. The festival features a whole host of events, including the traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, vibrant cultural performances, and the much-anticipated Cherry Blossom Parade. It is a time for communities to come together, revel in the beauty of nature, and honor the enduring bond between nations.

A Tough Job

While the cherry blossoms may bloom for only a brief period each year, their legacy endures throughout the seasons. The National Park Service, entrusted with the care of these iconic trees, works tirelessly to ensure their preservation and longevity. So it's up to the National Park Service to dig up these 150 trees this year. I'm guessing that killing off these iconic trees will tug on more than a few of their heartstrings. I know my own heart is a bit heavy. Big sigh.

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