A Century of Cherry Blossoms in Washington

Cherry Blossom 150x150 A Century of Cherry Blossoms in WashingtonBBB is marking its Centennial celebration this year in the company of a lot of other 100-year-old institutions – Girl Scouts of the USA, the State of Arizona, Oreo cookies, and the Japanese cherry trees of Washington, D.C, to name just a few.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the planting ceremony at the Washington Tidal Basin, when First Lady Helen Taft planted the first two cherry trees along with the Japanese Ambassador, Sutemi Chinda, and his wife, Iwa. They were joined by Eliza Ruhaman Scidmore, the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, who had lobbied the government for 24 years to get the gorgeous trees planted in the nation’s capital.

Here is some interesting trivia for you, thanks to The Washington Post:

  • The first trees arrived in 1910 but had to be destroyed due to an infestation of nematodes.
  • Cherry tree lovers chained themselves to trees that were slated to be removed to make way for the Jefferson Memorial in 1938. A compromise was reached and additional trees were planted around the new monument.
  • In 1941, several trees were cut down to protest the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. For a time, the trees are renamed “Oriental” flowering cherry trees.
  • During World War II, the cherry trees of Tokyo – “parents” of the Washington trees – died of neglect. In 1952, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for grafts from the D.C. trees to be sent to reforest the original Japanese groves.
  • In 1999, beavers in the Tidal Basin gnawed down several cherry trees before being humanely captured and moved to a distant location.
  • Over the decades, American and Japanese horticulturists have propagated cuttings from the original 1912 trees in order to preserve their genetic lineage.

For this year’s Centennial celebration, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has been extended to five weeks, which is about twice as long as the delicate blossoms usually last! Over a million visitors are expected to attend the festival, although if they don’t get to Washington in the next couple of days, they are going to miss the main attraction. Thanks to an incredibly mild winter, the blossoms bloomed almost two weeks early.

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About Katherine Hutt

Katherine R. Hutt, Director of Communications and Media Relations with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, is an award-winning communicator who has been helping nonprofit organizations tell their stories for the past 25 years. She was a CBBB consultant on numerous projects for more than a decade before joining the staff in 2011.