For Immediate Release
February 26, 2019
Japanese community concerned with Victoria’s cherry tree removal
Victoria – The Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society is worried the City of Victoria’s urban forest plan could threaten the future of the culturally and historically significant cherry trees lining many streets in Victoria and beloved by the entire community.
Victoria’s first blossoming cherry trees were purchased and donated by the Japanese community more than eight decades ago after their float won first place and $300 in prize money in the Victoria’s 75th anniversary parade in 1937.
“It’s disappointing that City Hall has failed to consult with Victoria’s Japanese community and the wider community about council’s plans that could uproot history,” said VNCS President Tsugio Kurushima. “It’s ironic that the history of Victoria’s cherry trees has been ignored at the same time VNCS is working with the Township of Esquimalt to right the historical wrong of the destruction of the Japanese tea house during the Second World War.”
Kurushima pointed out the cherry trees were selected by Victoria’s parks superintendent in the 1930s because native trees like firs and maples were buckling sidewalks. Cherry trees are also easier to maintain, require less watering, and prove hardier than many native trees.
“Sakura, or cherry blossoms, are a sign spring has arrived in Victoria and so many people love to celebrate the beauty they bring to our community,” Kurushima added. “For more than 80 years these trees have survived and thrived, and it’s clear that they can continue to spark joy for people many more decades.”
Kurushima noted that the points being made that climate change and drought resistance being the reasons to replace cherry trees has been debunked by University of Victoria forest biologist Dr. Patrick von Aderkas.
“Rather than climate change, it’s old age that is impacting the health of some of these 80-year-old trees. In fact, that time span is an incredible accomplishment for an ornamental tree,” Dr. von Aderkas said. “The reality of these cherry trees is the exact opposite of claims being made – they have an excellent adaptation in the face of climate change due to the superior water-seeking abilities of their roots. They are tough urban trees that are low on maintenance.”
Kurushima encouraged Victoria residents who share the Japanese community’s love of the cherry trees and their annual blossoming to share their concerns directly with the mayor and city councillors.
Tsugio Kurushima, President, Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society