— National Mall and Memorial Parks —
The Gift of Trees
Flowering cherry trees - which bloom profusely but do not bear edible fruit - were not common in the United States in 1900. American visitors to Japan found their beauty remarkable and journalist Eliza Scidmore was inspired to have these trees planted in Washington, D.C. She and David Fairchild, a botanist at the Department of Agriculture and plant explorer, were interested in beautifying the city's landscape. In 1909, the project was endorsed at the highest level by First Lady Helen Herron Taft, who had seen photographs of the flowering trees from Japan. The first gift of trees from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C. arrived the next year.
The 1910 Shipment
Two thousand cherry trees arrived in Washington, D.C. from Tokyo on January 6, 1910. U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists were becoming more aware of the danger posed by insects and pests imported from abroad. Insects and nematodes were found on the trees and the entire shipment had to be destroyed. A difficult diplomatic situation was avoided through the combined efforts of the U.S. State Department and Japanese authorities. On March 26, 1912, a new shipment of more than 3,000 healthy trees arrived. The first two trees were planted the next day.
The 1910 letter from the U.S. State Department to Japanese officials.
Burning the trees, 1910.
(1856-1928) had a career in journalism and a deep interest in Japanese culture. She promoted the planting of Japanese flowering cherry trees in Washington, D.C. for more than 20 years.
Dr. David Fairchild
(1869-1954), a U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist, oversaw the introduction of thousands of ornamental, food, and other plant species into the United States.
(1858-1954), Mayor of Tokyo at the time of the gift of cherry trees, was committed to advancing good relations between Japan and the United States.
Dr. Jokichi Takamine
(1854-1922), a distinguished chemist famous for the isolation of the hormone adrenaline and the first president of the pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo, played a pivotal role in the city of Tokyo's gift of trees to the city of Washington, D.C.
National Mall and Memorial Parks
National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior