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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about flowering cherry trees. They've been cultivated in Japan for more than 1000 years.


CURWOOD: Every spring thousands of Americans travel to Washington's Tidal Basin to view the cherry blossoms. It's a tradition that dates back to 1912, when the city of Tokyo presented First Lady Helen Taft with 3,000 flowering cherries. For the Japanese themselves, cherry blossom traditions go back a bit further. They've been cultivating what they call the sakura or flowering cherry for at least a thousand years. And cherry blossom parties are an essential social event in the Japanese spring calendar. In much of Japan, the event has become a metaphor for other parts of modern life. For instance, university applicants used to receive a telegram bearing the news of their acceptance or rejection. Some read "sakura saku," meaning the cherry trees have bloomed. Others bore the bad news, "sakura cheru," the cherry blossoms have fallen. In nature, they do fall easily. The cherry blossom lasts only four to ten days. By the way, many of Japan's cherry trees were destroyed in World War II. To replace them and help rebuild our friendship with the Japanese after the war, cuttings from the sakura given to Mrs. Taft were given back to Japan. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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