Trees from Japan
December 10, 1909
On this day, 2,000 cherry trees arrived in Seattle from Japan.
When First Lady Helen Taft indicated, she wanted to beautify Potomac Park, the mayor of Tokyo donated 2,000 cherry trees for the project.
But once the trees arrived on this day in 1909, they were found to have pest issues and disease. And it was this delivery of trees that lead to plant quarantine legislation for America. So, if you’ve ever wondered about the laws that govern bringing plants into the country, that legislation is rooted in this bad batch of cherry trees which the USDA ordered to be burned.
Now, you can imagine Japan’s mortification over the first lot of trees. In response, Japanese horticulturists immediately started cultivating and fumigating a new lot of cherry trees. It took three years to grow the trees and get them ready for travel. Finally, in 1912, Tokyo’s mayor Yukio Ozaki rectified the matter from 1909 three-fold when he sent 6,000 trees to the United States. By this time, Charles Marlett’s Plant Quarantine Act of 1912 was in place to ensure that all plant material entering the country was healthy and sanctioned. And this larger batch of trees was split between New York and Washington DC.