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1,266 famous Tokyo plum trees get the axe to prevent spread of 'plum pox'

8 Comments

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

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8 Comments
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To help Japan's woeful self-sufficiency rate how about replace them plum or cherry trees that produce fruit - not just a few days of "kirei" blossoms?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

@ifd66 Good idea, I have a cherry tree in my garden and last year I not only heard the "kirei" from my wife, but also "oishii" when the fruit ripened.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

@ifd66 actually this area produces umeboshi, so losing all the trees is quite bad for the businesses around there

4 ( +4 / -0 )

A team of scientists from the United States and France has genetically engineered a plum pox-resistant plum called C5,[3] and the resistance can be transferred through hybridization to other plum trees. Hope this can help with the problem in Japan

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Does anyone know if Hinegi Park in Umegaoka is effected by this virus?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Killing more trees is NOT a solution to the core problem, they have already tried that and it didn't work. The problem IS Aphids, NOT trees! Aphids cause these problems on every plant and tree they infest. True they are hard to get rid of but there are many ways, if you are diligent. Simple soap and water removes aphids but not there eggs, sometimes you have to remove sections of the plant or branches of the tree, not the whole plant or tree. If that still doesn't work, then insecticides are the next step. Why do we always treat the symptoms instead of the core problem?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ Stuart

Good point. Most Japanese agriculture is classified as intensive gardening anyway. So if farmers can justify spending the time and effort of placing bags around Fuji apples to achieve visual "perfection" for market, orchardists and arborists could surely go after the aphids with soaps or oils, regardless of how comparatively labor-intensive it may be.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why is the aphid population out of balance with the environment? What predators are going bye-bye, and why?

Some of their natural predators, such as ladybugs, are ones that can be purchased to release in one's garden/farm, so they should probably go that route.

Fruit-producing fruit trees are obviously better for the environment (feeds wild life, and fertilizes the soil), and humans than ones simply for looks. So, if the two at the top were saying they should replace "ornamental" plants with proper plum, and cherry trees, I would have to agree.

And, someone's advertisement of a nasty GMO product means it might be a planted virus situation to sell the yucky GMO. Monsanto is known to do those kinds of tactics.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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