SALEM — To mark the 75th anniversary of the close of World War II, more than two dozen Oregon communities have confirmed that next year they will be planting special peace trees distributed by the Oregon Department of Forestry in partnership with the non-profit groups Oregon Community Trees and the Medford-based One Sunny Day Initiative.
The seedling ginkgo and Asian persimmon trees were grown from seed collected from trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The bombing occurred 75 years ago on Aug. 6, 1945 and is also being remembered this year.
Kristin Ramstad is manager of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Urban and Community Forestry Assistance Program. She said between now and next summer, the 36 peace trees (29 ginkgos and seven Asian persimmons) will be planted in 26 cities and towns across 16 Oregon counties, from the coast to northeast Oregon and from the Columbia Gorge to near the California border. Most of the seedlings are going to parks, arboretums and schools. Other sites include a cemetery and a church. The greatest number will be planted in April as part of Arbor Week. View the full list of locations.
The seedlings are not the first Hiroshima peace trees planted in Oregon. Some were planted earlier this year at Oregon State University and Lake Oswego. However, they represent by far the largest number planted in any U.S. state, according to Green Legacy Hiroshima’s online world map of peace tree locations.
Ramstad said the project is a reminder that in addition to the environmental benefits tree canopy provides in cities, trees also play an important role in bringing a community together to reflect on the more meaningful aspects of life.
“To Hiroshima residents struggling in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, seeing these battered and scorched trees leaf out again gave hope that they, too, might recover,” said Ramstad. “They not only represented resilience in the face of unbelievable destruction, they have come to symbolize the desire and need for peace in a nuclear-armed world.”
Ramstad said the plantings are also an opportunity for Oregonians to acknowledge the service, sacrifices and suffering of tens of millions of people all over the world who were touched by World War II – both civilians and veterans.
A long journey to new homes in Oregon
One of those deeply touched by the war is Hideko Tamura-Snider, who as a 10-year-old lost her mother in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Tamura-Snider is a founder of the One Sunny Day Initiative (OSDI), based in Medford, where she now lives. Tamura-Snider secured from Green Legacy Hiroshima seeds the group had collected from trees that had survived the atom bomb.
In spring 2017, Tamura-Snider gave the seeds to Oregon Community Trees board member Michael Oxendine in Ashland to germinate. Oxendine successfully sprouted the seeds, but with no facilities to care for the seedlings, he appealed to OCT and the Oregon Department of Forestry to find homes for them.
ODF arranged for the seedling trees to be cared for by Corvallis Parks and Recreation staff under the watchful eye of the department’s Jennifer Killian. Ramstad said ODF offered the seedlings at no cost, with priority given to Trees Cities USA and Tree Campuses USA in Oregon.
“Tree City USA and Tree Campus USA communities have proven leadership in caring for their urban forests, so it’s fitting that they be looked at first to host these special trees,” said Ramstad. She added that recipients are required to plant the trees in public places as part of a public ceremony.
Ramstad said while a few plantings will occur over the winter, the majority happen after ODF plants a ginkgo on its Salem campus on April 2. “One of the last plantings will be May 9 at Klamath Falls Union High School,” said Ramstad. “Organizer Gayle Yamasaki envisions lots of public involvement. She is planning a poetry reading by Lawson Fusao Inada, Oregon poet laureate from 2006 to 2010, as well as Japanese taiko drumming and a forum about what reconciliation looks like in the wake of World War II.”
Upon learning how many communities are embracing the Hiroshima seedlings, Tamura-Snider wrote that the anticipated plantings “filled me with joy, remembering the long journey for both the tree[s]and myself. Thank you, people of Oregon, for your enduring faith in the future, in the resilience of life.”