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Cherry trees - A symbol of US-Japan unity


Japan has once again gifted cherry trees to the United States, renewing a century-old tradition that began with Tokyo's mayor sending trees to Washington, D.C. These trees, integral to the Cherry Blossom Festival, represent more than beauty; they signify the friendship between two nations and the challenges of maintaining plant health.

The first shipment of trees faced destruction due to infestations, which led to significant changes in US plant quarantine laws with the 1912 Plant Quarantine Act.

Today, USDA's APHIS and its PPQ division are tasked with the critical role of protecting these national treasures from similar threats. Special permits are required for their import, and extensive pre-shipment inspections are conducted to ensure they are pest-free.

Upon arrival, the trees are meticulously inspected at a Maryland facility, focusing on their roots and foliage to detect any sign of disease or pests. After clearing initial inspections, the trees are nurtured at the National Plant Germplasm Quarantine Center for two years, preparing them for their ultimate planting near the Tidal Basin. 

These rigorous protections by APHIS highlight the delicate balance between preserving a cherished cultural tradition and ensuring the health of the US ecosystem. The cherry trees stand as a testament to international friendship and the importance of stringent plant health safeguards.

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