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Room to bloom

By A. Jion Kim

Every year in late March, UW students, faculty, and campus visitors flock to the Quad to see the Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom.

Japan gave the cherry trees to the United States in 1912 as a goodwill gesture. The trees were distributed to different regions of the United States, including Washington, D.C., according to Howard Nakase, the manager of UW’s landscape and grounds operations.

The Washington Park Arboretum received 34 Yoshino cherry trees from Japan and planted them in a grove. However, with the construction of the SR 520 Floating Bridge, a part of the Arboretum needed to be reconstructed and the trees would have been given away or destroyed. To save the trees, the UW decided to purchase 30 from the Arboretum in the mid-1960s and plant them on campus.

Nakase said the Quad was initially just an expanse of grass. Once the university’s landscape architects developed a design to place the trees in the Quad, the diagonal brick walkways were built, where they still sit today.

The cherry trees have become one of the university’s most iconic sites, attracting thousands of visitors each spring to admire and take photographs of the blossoms, particularly on the rare sunny Seattle days. When the trees are in bloom, the Quad is also a popular spot for picnics. Visitors and students are not allowed to climb the trees or use them for slacklining, as those activities can strip away the bark from the trunks.

According to Nakase, Yoshino cherry trees generally live for about 100 years, depending on climate. The trees in the Quad are currently more than 80 years old, so the UW is looking to replace them before they die out. The university also hopes to plant cherry trees in other parts of campus.

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