Why Someiyoshino cherry trees are disappearing from all over Japan because they are susceptible to a certain disease. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Why Someiyoshino cherry trees are disappearing from all over Japan because they are susceptible to a certain disease.

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Someiyoshino trees have a life span of 60 years? But some trees are over 100 years old… What is the difference?

Actually, the Japan Flower Growers’ Association has not shipped or produced saplings of the Someiyoshino since ’05.

This shocking statement was made by Mr. Toru Koyama of the Japan Cherry Blossom Society, which has sent 2.5 million cherry tree seedlings to Japan and abroad to create famous cherry blossom viewing spots.

The cherry trees planted at cherry blossom viewing spots are no longer “Someiyoshino”!

Why? Someiyoshino are synonymous with cherry blossoms, but….

Someiyoshino cherry trees are susceptible to “Cherry Blight. Someiyoshino is said to have been created by crossing the Edohigan and Oshima cherry trees. The Edohigan is resistant to cherry coccidiosis, but for some reason, its child, the Someiyoshino, is more susceptible to the disease.

Cherry psoridiosis is a disease in which spores of a type of fungus called taphrina attach to the undersides of leaves, causing them to become increasingly infected. Infected branches stop blooming and lose their desirability, and if left unchecked, the entire affected branch may wither and die.

Someiyoshino is a beautiful cherry tree with pale pink blossoms, but if it is infected with cherry psyllid disease, its leaves also appear at the same time as the blossoms. However, when the cherry tree is infected with cherry tenugo-sushi disease, the leaves also come out during the flowering period, and fungal spores are found on the underside of the leaves.

The Japan Cherry Blossom Society has selected four varieties of cherry trees as successors to the Someiyoshino: Jindai Akebono, Komatsu Otome, Yoharu, and America. All of these varieties are less susceptible to the cherry pest, and bloom at the same time of year as the Somei-Yoshino. However, it is somewhat sad that they are not Somei-Yoshino.

Many people thought so, and the image of “cherry blossoms = Someiyoshino” was strong. So we planted them in front of the National Theatre and started by making people aware of them.

Today, a row of 1,000 Jindai Akebono cherry trees has been created in the Oegawa district of Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture, and has become a famous cherry blossom viewing spot. The cherry blossoms are a combination of the slightly pale pink Someiyoshino and the darker pink Jindai Akebono. They are cute, but will there be no more Someiyoshino?

Someiyoshino will never disappear. Someiyoshino will not disappear. They will continue to bloom in well-maintained parks and under the watchful eye of volunteer cherry tree guards.

Will they disappear from the trees along the streets?

Someiyoshino cherry trees have been infected with cherry psittacosis. Twigs form a nest-like shape high up on the tree. It is called “Cherry Nest Disease” because it resembles the nest of a tengu (PHOTO: Courtesy of the Japan Flower Growers Association).
A row of “Jindai Akebono” cherry trees along the Oegawa River, where 100 trees have been planted each year since 2010, resulting in a row of 1,000 trees. A little pinker than Someiyoshino (PHOTO: Courtesy of Japan Flower Club)

Environment is shortening the life span of Someiyoshino

Someiyoshino cherry trees are said to have a life span of 60 years. Is this due to the cherry psittacosis?

It is not the only reason. Someiyoshino need sun and fertile, well-drained land to grow. If the tree is planted on a narrow planting bed or if the soil is not improved to allow sufficient root growth, it may not be able to absorb enough water and nutrients, resulting in gradual decline in vigor.

If the branches are too crowded, ventilation is reduced, making it easier for pests and diseases to attach to the tree. That is another factor that weakens cherry trees.

Someiyoshino cherry trees grow to a height of 10 meters and spread horizontally as well. The Japan Cherry Blossom Growers’ Association instructs its members to keep a distance of 10 meters between trees when sending saplings, but the association also says that the distance between small saplings should not exceed 10 meters.

The Japan Flower Growers’ Association instructs its members to plant small saplings 10 meters apart from each other, but the group says, “It must seem lonely to plant small saplings 10 meters apart.

They think that they can plant between the trees and cut them when they get bigger, but in reality, once the cherry trees start blooming, they cannot cut the cherry trees between the trees and leave them as they are. If that happens, the branches between the cherry trees will become entangled with each other, which is not good for the future.”

If the branches grow too long and get in the way of power lines, there is a possibility that “rotting fungi” will enter the tree from there. Someiyoshino trees cannot survive without care.

Someiyoshino trees in the outer garden of the Imperial Palace were planted in 1986 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Showa Emperor’s reign. The branches have grown well due to the ample spacing between plants (PHOTO: Courtesy of the Japan Flower Club).

Someiyoshino trees are most beautiful when they are 30 to 40 years old.

The “Someiyoshino’s 60-year lifespan” theory was first proposed in a 2001 book titled “Save the Cherry Blossoms: Men Who Challenge the ‘Someiyoshino’s 60-year lifespan’ Theory. However, Mr. Koyama, who is a member of the

Someiyoshino trees do not have a 60-year lifespan. There is a Someiyoshino planted in 1878 in Kaiseizan Park in Fukushima Prefecture, and another in 1882 in Hirosaki Park in Aomori Prefecture. Both of these trees are over 140 years old. There are also many Someiyoshino trees in Japan that are more than 90 years old.

He said, “There are many Someiyoshino trees in Japan that are more than 90 years old.

The Miharu-no-taki cherry tree, a natural treasure in Miharu-cho, Fukushima Prefecture, is said to be more than 1,000 years old. It is a weeping cherry tree of the Edohigan family, the parent of the Someiyoshino. Since it inherits the genes of the Edohigan, the Someiyoshino should also have a long life span…
Someiyoshino cherry trees in Hirosaki Park were planted in 1882. With proper care, someiyoshino can continue to bloom for more than 100 years.
Someiyoshino cherry trees in Hirosaki Park have been pruned by applying apple cultivation techniques to cherry trees, and have maintained their vigor for more than 60 years.
The Yuki Farm of the Japan Cherry Blossom Society in Ibaraki Prefecture, where 400 varieties of cherry trees are grown on a site of about 83,000 m2. The photo shows a “row of ten-color cherry trees. It is open to the public in mid-April, when the variety called “satozakura” is at its best each year (PHOTO: courtesy of Japan Hananokai).

But why was such a title given to the book?

It is said that the Someiyoshino was first marketed by a gardener in Somei-mura (present-day Toshima Ward, Tokyo) at the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). During the postwar confusion, many cherry trees were cut down and some were used as fuel.

After that, the world calmed down and from around 1950 to 1951, someiyoshino cherry trees were planted throughout the country, but when these trees reached 50 years old, they gradually began to decline in vigor. It is thought that the trees were weakened by the lack of proper pruning and fertilization, which led to the 60-year life expectancy theory.

According to Mr. Koyama, someiyoshino cherry trees are most beautiful when they are 30 to 40 years old.

As people get older, they also get sick and various other things start to go wrong. It is the same with trees.

Someiyoshino is loved as an ornamental tree because it flowers well, grows quickly, and produces leaves after blooming.

I feel sorry for someiyoshino trees that they are cut down due to inadequate care.

Trees that live with people need to be managed by people. In the case of cherry psocids, we can prevent the spread of the disease by cutting the diseased branches at an early stage.

If you want to enjoy cherry blossom viewing with Someiyoshino, you have no choice but to take care of them.

The Japan Cherry Blossom Society was founded in April 1962 at the suggestion of Yoshinari Kawai, then president of Komatsu Ltd., a construction machinery manufacturer, who loved flowers. He has also been involved in the restoration of Japan’s oldest cherry tree, the Yamataka Jindai Zakura, which is said to be 2,000 years old.

  • Interview and text by Izumi Nakagawa PHOTO Afro

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