Hiroshima Peace Trees Grow in Oregon

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To mark 75 years of peace between Japan and the U.S. since World War II, 30 Oregon communities committed to plant peace trees

SALEM – The young trees were grown from seeds of trees that miraculously survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. Today, these plantings have helped Oregon have one of the largest collections of Hiroshima peace trees of any state or nation outside Japan.

As a 10-year-old girl, Hideko Tamura-Snider lost her mother and a favorite cousin in the bombing of Hiroshima. Hideko survived, eventually moving to Medford and writing a book for children, One Sunny Day, about her experiences as a survivor. In 2007 she helped found the One Sunny Day Initiative. Its mission is to plant seeds of universal peace, hope, and reconciliation.

Hideko Tamura- Snider with her favorite cousin (left) and mother (right), who were among the more than 100,000 people who died in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped.

On a trip to Japan, Hideko Tamura-Snider learned that the non-profit Green Legacy Hiroshima was collecting seeds of Hiroshima’s atom-bomb “survivor trees,” ginkgos known as hibakujumoku, and distributing them worldwide as symbols of peace and resilience. Read more about the trees here.

In 2017 Hideko persuaded Oregon Community Trees (OCT) board member Mike Oxendine in Ashland to request the seeds and germinate them, which he did. He successfully sprouted the seeds, which were collected from a single ginkgo tree and a single Asian persimmon. With no facilities to care for so many seedlings, he appealed to OCT and the Oregon Department of Forestry

OCT board member Jim Gersbach arranged for the seedling trees to be cared for by fellow OCT board member Jennifer Killian and her colleagues at the Corvallis Parks and Recreation department.

Oregon Community Trees board member Jennifer Killian and her colleagues at Corvallis Parks and Recreation cared for scores of Hiroshima peace trees while they grew big enough to plant out. She’ll be planting one in Avery Park in Corvallis in coming months.

Gersbach then worked with ODF’s Urban and Community Forestry Program Manager Kristin Ramstad to organize distribution of the seedlings around Oregon at no cost, provided recipients planted them in public places. Priority was given to Trees Cities USA and Tree Campuses USA in Oregon.

Ramstad said those communities proven leadership in caring for urban trees made them fitting hosts.

“These trees not only represent resilience in the face of unbelievable destruction, they have come to symbolize the desire and need for peace in a nuclear-armed world,” said Ramstad. “That message resonated with communities across the state.”

Requests for trees were made by schools, colleges, cemeteries, churches, parks, and arboretums. All parts of the state were represented, from the Columbia River to the California line, and the coast to cities far inland. Most communities had planned big public ceremonies commemorating the trees and the 75th anniversaries but the ban on large public gatherings because of COVID-19 forced cancellation.

Instead, communities are rethinking the ceremonies as future dedication ceremonies once the pandemic has subsided and public gatherings are again possible.

“These trees represented hope to survivors of a shattered Hiroshima, a belief that a community can be reborn even after terrible loss of life,” said Gersbach. Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, that message of resilience amid unprecedented disaster and hope in the future has become even more relevant to us.”

In pre-COVID times, L-R: Oregon Community Trees board member Michael Oxendine, Hideko Tamura-Snider, and ODF employee Jim Gersbach.

Gersbach says that community members around the state have started reaching out about adding peace trees to their parks, too.

About Author

Jim Gersbach is a public information officer at the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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