Celebrating the Cherry Blossom Centennial
March 27, 2012
Japan's gift has led to arguably the largest celebration in our national park system, the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which brings thousands of visitors to our nation's capital each year, giving a boost to the local economy by supporting many jobs.
This is truly an international celebration of the coming of spring and the beauty of nature. For if you walk along the edge of the tidal basin, as I'm sure all of you have here as I have just in the last few days, you will hear languages from all over the globe.
We have roughly 3,700 trees, 3,020 trees were part of the gift, 3,700 now. So, the number is consistent. The increase, there was a second gift back during Ladybird's time, mostly the Washington Monument grounds, so it went from 3,020 to 3,700 and we're sustaining that.
It's a cultural landscape, we maintain the trees in accordance with that. We have about 75-80 of the original 1912 trees still surviving. They were probably four to five years old when they came over, so probably about 105 years old.
The average life is 50, in an urban environment. The fact that we got a 100 years, it's simple, we have a group of men who are dedicated to the trees beyond their job with the park service. They take care of them, they are like children, they have intimate contact with these trees, they know them well and they take care of them. That's why we have some trees that are 100 years old. It may very well be the most pampered population of trees in our nation's capital, if not the country.
We have a new memorial here. Part of the design concept was to blend the memorial in without visually impacting the Cherrys. I think if you go across the other side and look over, the side from the statue of Martin Luther King, you really even wouldn't know the memorial's there. I think the design concept did a nice job of blending the memorial in with the existing landscape.
I believe that we may be able to sustain a few of the 100 trees for another 100 years.
For so many years these trees have served as a symbol of the great friendship between the United States and Japan, and as a reminder of our shared hopes, dreams and aspirations. Over the past century people of all ages from the US and Japan and so many other nations have come to this tidal basin each spring to marvel at their beauty.