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Photo: Cherokee Princess dogwood.
ARS scientists at the U.S. National Arboretum recently helped the State Department select and prepare a gift of dogwood trees for Japan in honor of the 100th anniversary of their cherry tree gift to this country.

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USDA Scientists Help Select U.S. Dogwood Trees for Planting in Japan

By Sharon Durham
February 1, 2013

Visitors to Tokyo, Japan, will have a chance to see first-hand the beauty of flowering dogwood trees, thanks in part to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists who helped select specific dogwoods best suited to the Japanese climate.

The U.S. government announced in April 2012 a gift of 3,000 flowering dogwoods to Japan to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Japan’s gift of flowering cherry trees to the United States. Those cherry trees have blossomed along the National Mall’s Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C., and other areas around Washington since then.

The job of finding the right dogwoods for Japan went to scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. National Arboretum, in Washington, D.C.  ARS plant geneticist Richard Olsen determined the appropriate dogwood cultivars for the varied Japanese climate and located the planting material. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency

Olsen and his colleagues evaluated the performance of dogwood germplasm at the arboretum as well as novel cultivars available in the American nursery industry to find those most suited to the Japanese climate. For decades, the arboretum has collected dogwood germplasm from across the United States. Dogwoods are found from Florida to Michigan, and as far west as Missouri and Texas

There are many things to consider when choosing the proper dogwood variety, including temperature range and the insect pests to which particular dogwoods may be susceptible, according to Olsen

The planning group for the dogwood gift includes the U.S. Department of State; USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Forest Service, and ARS; and the U.S./Japan Bridging Foundation, a nonprofit organization

In November 2012, 150 of the dogwoods were planted in Tokyo. Of the 3,000-tree gift, 1,000 dogwoods will be planted in Tokyo, 1,000 in the Tohoku region in honor of the tsunami victims, and the final 1,000 will be distributed to schools and other organizations throughout Japan

Read more about this research in the February 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine