A small ginkgo tree seedling with a big message of peace was planted in the Japanese garden section of the Master Gardeners’ Discovery Garden at River Forks Park on Thursday.
Steve Renquist, a horticulture agent for the Oregon State University Extension Service, planted the tree. He said it descends from a Japanese tree that survived America’s atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
The tree is one of three that will be planted in Roseburg this year. The other two will be planted at Umpqua Community College and Odd Fellows Cemetery in Roseburg.
“The neat thing about the ginkgo is it’s a really ancient tree,” Renquist said. “It’s one of those that go back to the earliest plant life on the planet.”
The ginkgo is a tough, resistant plant. When Hiroshima was bombed, ginkgos were the only trees to survive, Renquist said. This seedling was grown from a seed that came from one of the ginkgo trees that survived and flowered again after World War II ended.
Kuki-Shi, Roseburg’s Japanese sister city, helped ensure Roseburg would obtain some of the 36 peace tree seedlings Oregon cities will be receiving this year.
Hideko Tamura-Snider of Medford obtained the seeds originally from Green Legacy Hiroshima. She was 10 when she lost her mother in the bombing. In 2017, Tamura-Snider gave the seeds to an Oregon Community Trees board member, who sprouted them but then sent them to the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Renquist said he received a call about the trees being available and learned that Kuki-Shi had recommended its sister city as a recipient.
Renquist said he hopes this tree is male because it turns out that female ginkgos produce a very stinky fruit that falls to the ground.
The trees grow to about 50 feet and have beautiful leaves in autumn.
“When the sun hits them they just burst, they’re so lovely — a golden yellow,” Renquist said.
The tree was planted next to statues of the Japanese words for “harmony, peace and contemplation” and a plaque commemorating one of the Japanese garden’s founders, the late Chiaki Koyama. Koyama was from Shobu, which merged into Kuki-Shi, and Wiley Wood, the other garden founder, met him there. They started the garden in 2000.
Kay Livermore, the membership director for Master Gardeners, was one of about 15 people who attended Thursday’s peace tree planting. She said before this, she’d had no idea that there were trees that survived the bombing.
“I’m just really, really pleased,” she said. “It is a neat idea for us to get one for our Discovery Garden that is open to the public. And the public to be able to come and see this special ginkgo tree is just fantastic.”