Eliza's Cherry Trees
Published on Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 4:03pm
Thousands of people visit Washington, DC each year to see the beautiful cherry trees that surround the Tidal Basin. Do you know how the cherry trees got here?
If you'd like to know this fascinating story, you need to read the book Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift to America.
Eliza Scidmore was born in 1854 and lived in Washington, DC. She went to Oberlin College and traveled a great deal after she graduated. Over the years, she visited Alaska, India, Russia, China, Indonesia, and Japan. Eliza especially loved Japan; she grew to love the people and culture, and learned to speak Japanese. One of Eliza's favorite things about Japan were its gardens, and the sakura, the Japanese cherry tree, was to her "the most beautiful thing in the world." When Eliza returned to Washington, she thought that the growing capital city could be made more beautiful if it had sakura of its own. She told the parks directors her idea to plant cherry trees by the water, but year after year, they said no. Eliza continued to travel, and became the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. She wrote articles and took photographs for the magazine, and also became a photographer for the Smithsonian Institution. In 1909, Eliza wrote a letter to President Taft in order to share her idea. Mrs. Taft loved the idea, and two thousand cherry trees were sent to Washington, with the help of Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese scientist. Sadly, the trees were infested with disease and bugs, and they were burned so as not to contaminate other trees. But in 1912, Eliza's dream came true, and 3,000 Japanese cherry trees were sent to Washington as a gift from the people of Tokyo, Japan. More than one hundred years later, people still come to admire the cherry trees, just like Eliza hoped they would. The trees have become an international symbol of peace and friendship.