2012 marks the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of cherry blossom trees to the United States. The nation’s capital is celebrating the 2012 centennial at this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is held annually in Washington, DC from March to April to commemorate the gift of 3,000 cherry trees that were given by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. This year the city is throwing an extravagant 5-week celebration that is running from March 20–April 27, 2012. The 2012 Centennial celebration includes exhibitions, performances, and activities — many of which are free. While peak blooms took place in late March this year due to high winter temperatures, the cherry blossoms are still expected to put on a good show throughout April.
Wondering about the history of cherry blossoms in the America? The cherry trees were donated as a gift of friendship to the United States from the people of Japan. According to the Trust for the National Mall,
“In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or ‘Sakura,’ is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages.”
The USDA states that the first shipment of 2,000 cherry trees actually arrived in late 1909, but were found to be diseased when inspected by the Department of Agriculture. The trees were harboring pests like white peach scale, black thrips, clearwing moths, and San Jose scale. The trees had to be destroyed so that the invasive insects did not spread into surrounding areas.
In March 1912 the shipment of 3,000 pest-free cherry trees arrived in Washington, DC and marks the beginning of a cherished annual tradition. Today the blooming cherry blossoms attract over 1 million annual visitors to the nation’s capital.
Check out other flower festivals across the country.