Let us thank
Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore for the idea of planting Japanese cherry trees
in the Nation's Capital. After returning home from her first visit
to Japan in 1885, the Washington resident approached the Superintendent
of Public Building and Grounds to propose that Japanese cherries beautify
the soon-to-be-reclaimed Potomac waterfront. She approached every
new Superintendent with the same plan for the next 24 years. But did
Our next champion was Dr. David Fairchild of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. He imported 100 cherry trees from Japan, and planted
them on his own property in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After becoming
confident of their hardiness, he encouraged the Chevy Chase Land Company
to order 300 trees in 1907. The next year, he gave cherry saplings
to D.C. school children to plant in their school yards. At his subsequent
Arbor Day lecture, attended by Mrs. Scidmore, he proposed that part
of West Potomac Park be turned into a "Field of Cherries."
the course of raising money for the project, Mrs. Scidmore sent a
note to First lady Helen Herron Taft, who had once lived in Japan.
Mrs. Taft liked the idea of planting the Japanese cherries
and accepted the offer of 2,000 trees from the Japanese consul in
New York to add to several dozen purchased by the U.S. government.
The Japanese trees that arrived in 1910 were infested and had to be
destroyed. More than 3,000 trees were then donated by Japan in 1912.
Mrs. Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador,
planted the first two cherry trees on March 27, 1910. Those trees
are still standing - and about 150 trees remain from the original
For more information,
see the National
Park Service cherry blossom page.