Crushing Cherries – A Quick Story

Breeding, a significant milestone, a transitional rite–birth, graduation, wedding, retirement, death, to name a few. For several centuries trees have been planted.

And the particular tree type selected typically has a symbolic significance as regards the event. The oak tree was always a symbol of strength and courage, for example-they always say, “the powerful oak.” And the Tree of Bonsai symbolizes harmony, peace and equilibrium for a long time.

It’s very significant when someone plants a tree to mark a triumph. But when I was in Washington D.C. at the beginning of April this year. I’ve seen this amazing display of the trees traveling for the Davey Tree, and it can be extraordinary if someone plants a lot of trees symbolically.

I was among three hundred and seventy-four hot cherry trees in the Tidal Basin–their dark trunks were set by stunning pink and white blossom crowns. As the wind of the Potomac River began, in the rain of pastel petals passing by me into the earth, I stood under one of these trees. It had been beyond magic.

And it struck me with curiosity. Who has been inspired to plant the first tree which would lead to this splendid view of D.C. For the sake of seeing these delicate blooms, as an early spring visitor attraction?? What is the history of this massive show of trees in a soft whispering wind that explains their presence?? What is its history?

SO I DID SOME DIGGING The story begins with one woman, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, who was inspired by her first Japanese visit in 1885 by the cherry trees. She approached U.S. military superintendents for 24 years.

In the interim, a plant explorer and US Dr. David Fairchild Official Department of Agriculture, 100 different Japanese cherry trees were imported, planted and tested for hardness on a hillside in his Chevy Chase, M.D. property. He encouraged the trees to be ideal on Washington Avenues with the results.

Scidmore sent First Lady Helen Taft a note in 1909 regarding her new plan for buying and giving cherry trees to the town. Taft was in Japan and knew the beauty of the flowering cherry trees, so she answered by suggesting their avenue.

At the time, a Japanese chemist, Dr. Jokichi Takamine was in Washington and this plan has been told. He offered to give another 2000 trees as a present from Tokyo to fill the area.

According to the Department of Agriculture, many of the initial trees had insect and disease infestations. The trees have been destroyed to protect American farmers. Some of the trees have been saved for research and planted in a nearby experimental plot.

Japan donated the money again to the trees and increased it to 3,020.

On 27 March 1912, on the North bank of Tidal Basin, some 125 feet South of what is now Independence Avenue, SW, Helen Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two Yoshino cherry trees. After the ceremony, Viscountess Chinda-the well-known Washington National Cherry Blossom Festival grew up from this very simple ceremony-was presented with a bouquet of “American Beauty.” The original two trees still stand hundreds of yards west of the Memorial to John Paul Jones, located at the 17th Street, in the southwestern part of Switzerland.

Another first woman dedicated in 1965 to Washington’s embellishment-Lady Bird Johnson, wife for President Lyndon Johnson-was presented by the Japanese Government in another gift of 3800 yoshino trees. Much of these were planted on the Washington monument grounds. This time American-grown.

Between 2002 and 2006, the genetics of the original trees were planted in a continuation of 400 trees propagated from the surviving trees of the 1912 donation.

Cherries are a symbol of death, renaissance and new upliftment. Between the United States and Japan they symbolize an unbelievably deep-rooted international friendship. Indeed, the symbol is so powerful that four cherry trees were cut down for the Japanese assault on the US even on December 11, 1941. Pearl Harbor Pacific Fleet. 

Cherries now have innocence, spring and simplicity linked to them.

When another wind blows and my face flashes with a cascade of delicate petals, I recall that trees are important, whatever they symbolize, from the memory of one person into world peace.

If you would like to get your own cherry trees, contact for help.