Community, Creswell

Cities to plant Hiroshima ‘peace tree’

Ginko leaves. Photo archives

CRESWELL – The Japanese have a word for a tree that survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945: hibakujumoku.
Each fall since 2011, a group of volunteers gather under a 300-year-old A-bomb survivor gingko tree and collect its seeds. The group, Green Legacy Hiroshima (GLH) Initiative, comb forest floors in the nuclear blast zone for the surviving seeds of the resilient ginkgos, persimmons, camphors and camellias.
To them, survivor trees symbolize both caution and hope; a reminder of the human consequences of nuclear weapons, the sacred character of mankind, the resilience of nature.
They’ve made that mindset their mission. GLH members send the seedlings and saplings all over the world in hopes the message, and these trees, flourish.
August marks 75 years since those bombs first dropped. Now, seeds and saplings from the A-bombed trees are growing in more than 30 countries. And this year, Creswell and Cottage Grove will each receive its own hibakujumoku.
Reilly Newman, chair for the Creswell Parks and Tree Advisory Board, sought and was awarded grants for both cities, she told the Creswell City Council Monday night, Jan. 27.
Creswell and Cottage Grove will be two of 27 Oregon communities that will plant these peace trees this year. Cottage Grove will plant its tree at Trailhead Park and Creswell is still looking for a suitable location to plant the tree.
”The glorious gingko,” Newman said, will grow to be ”this huge tree with yellow leaves in the fall.” The trees are only about two years old right now and are very small, she said.
From seed, gingko trees take about 30 years to mature. They reach up to 100 feet tall and have a canopy between 30 and 50 feet wide.
Part of the pause in selecting a location is its eventual size, City Manager Michelle Amberg said. It will grow to be a large tree with abundant yellow foliage in the fall, and will require an open and sunny space with no vehicle traffic.
That and, ”we don’t know if the tree will be a male or female,” Newman said. Female ginkgo trees bear round fruit three weeks out of the year that have a pungent smell akin to dirty gym socks. The tree needs to be located somewhere that doesn’t bother anyone in the surrounding area. ”We will get complaints,” Amberg said.
Amberg said she put forth a proposal for the tree to be located on the Hillside Church property, up on the hill. ”It could grow as big as it wants up there,” she said; but she has not yet received a response.
The council also brainstormed a few other possible locations, namely the north side of the Old Schoolhouse property on South Second and other City-owned parks, though none were agreeable to council.
”We have a few months to decide,” Newman said, noting that the plan is the have a peace tree-planting celebration on Arbor Day in April.
When it is planted, ”the tree will be a symbol of hope and peace,” Newman said, and a place ”where people can go and sit by it and reflect.”



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