It’s cherry blossom time in Tokyo, which means that the plum blossom season is just coming to a close, and one of Tokyo’s most popular spots to see plum blossom, Umeno Park in Ome, has finished the season with a sad announcement: it is chopping down all 1,266 of its famous plum trees to prevent the spread of a disease called plum pox.
Plum blossom, or ume in Japanese, blooms just at the end of winter and come in shades of red, pink and white. Ume may not be quite as popular as the cherry blossom, since it’s usually too cold to hold parties under their blossom-laden branches, but they are beloved as harbingers of spring.
According to Ome’s agriculture and forestry division, the plum pox virus was first noticed in the city in 2009 and was spread by aphids and through grafting infected trees. Although it poses no danger to humans or animals, the virus causes discoloration of leaves and fruit and causes the fruit to fall from the tree before maturity. It can also spread to other stone fruit trees. There is no treatment available, so the only way to prevent the spread of the virus is to cut down infected plants.
Between 2009 and 2012, the city felled about 2,600 trees, but despite their efforts, the disease was found in 2010 to have spread to over a hundred trees in Umeno Park. Infected trees were cut down and removed, but the disease has continued to spread.
Last year, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries decreed that not only infected trees but those surrounding them should be felled, necessitating the destruction of some 500 trees in the park. Considering how many trees would have to be destroyed anyway, the city decided to fell all the remaining trees to be sure of eradicating the virus.
Ome has been called Japan’s number 1 city for plum blossoms, so the announcement was grave news for tourists and locals alike. The head of a local tourism cooperative was quoted as saying, “These trees are the symbol of our city. There aren’t words to express how sad this is, but we will move forward one step at a time to ensure they are resurrected.”
The city plans to replant the park once the area has been free of plum pox for three years.
Source: Yahoo! Japan News