LA GRANDE — Ginkgo trees have survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, the bombing of Hiroshima and traveled around the world. The tree has become a symbol of peace between Japan and other nations through the Green Legacy Hiroshima project, with seedlings planted across the globe. The cities of La Grande and Elgin will join the movement when they plant ginkgo trees in the spring.
“It is a really neat program,” said Teresa Gustafson, urban forester for La Grande. “We put in a request and now we have a tree to plant in April.”
Long-lived ginkgo trees grew in Eastern Oregon millions of years ago before becoming extinct everywhere but China, according to ODF’s public information officer Jim Gersbach.
The Oregon Department of Forestry distributes these special peace trees in partnership with the nonprofit groups Oregon Community Trees and the Medford-based One Sunny Day Initiative.
The seedlings were grown from seeds from trees that survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Medford resident Hideko Tamura-Snider brought the seeds to Oregon. She survived the Hiroshima bombing, which occurred 74 years ago on Aug. 6, 1945. Her mother died in the atomic blast.
State forestry selected 24 communities to receive the trees, including Portland, Bend and Klamath Falls. La Grande and Elgin made the cut because of their ability to care for the trees, according to Gersbach.
“La Grande said early on that they were interested in having the trees in town,” Gersbach said.
The La Grande tree will be planted during the Arbor Day celebration in April at Riverside Park, 3501 N. Spruce St., and the tree in Elgin will be part of a newly constructed memorial garden at the Elgin High School’s athletic complex.
“The tree is the perfect way to start the garden,” Elgin School District Superintendent Dianne Greif said.
Greif said the school district plans to get students involved in the planting during the spring.
The seedlings were germinated in Ashland by Michael Oxendine, a board member of the Oregon Community Trees.
“Oxendine grew them to be big enough to establish, but they are not huge,” Gustafson said.
She explained the seedlings will need protective gating in the early stages until the roots grow enough, but ginkgo trees are very sturdy and will be able to withstand the weather of Northeast Oregon. According to Gustafson, there are several ginkgo trees planted in the town and this species of tree does not require additional care.