Mystery of two trees sprouts in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

by Sakiko Masuda, Staff Writer

It has been learned that a tree in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, thought to be a sugar maple that was given as a gift by the Canadian government, is actually a Chinese sweet gum tree. The two types of trees apparently bear some resemblance. After a citizen raised this concern, the City of Hiroshima examined the tree and confirmed its identity. To clarify the situation, the municipal government will place a panel at the site which provides explanation.

The tree, and a stone monument nearby, stand to the north of the East Building of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. On the back of the monument are inscribed the words: “This sugar maple tree is a gift from the Canadian government.” It shows the date of May 1963.

Responding to an inquiry questioning whether the tree is actually a sugar maple, a city official and a specialist from the Hiroshima Botanical Garden examined the tree on February 1. They found that the nuts of the tree are not propeller-shaped, which is characteristic of sugar maple trees, but prickly, a trait of the Chinese sweet gum. The shape of the leaves also differ from that of maple trees. From these findings, the tree has been identified as a Chinese sweet gum tree.

According to the city’s Greenery Policy Division, there is a document indicating that a sugar maple tree was presented by the Canadian government in 1963, but no reference is made to where in the park the tree was planted. Since it is very rare for stone monuments to be moved, the tree must have been planted alongside the monument. It is very likely that the original sugar maple tree was unable to survive the Japanese climate.

It is not clear when and why a Chinese sweet gum tree was then planted in its place. It appears that sweet gum tree seeds were given as a gift, and one of those seeds grew at this location.

Visiting the park with his students as part of their peace studies program, Toshiya Yokosawa, 28, a teacher at Hatsukaichi Junior High School in Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, said, “Students come here to study so accurate information needs to be provided.”

The city’s Greenery Policy Division will leave the monument in its current location, to remember the gift from Canada, and add a panel to inform visitors that the tree is a Chinese sweet gum.

(Originally published on February 4, 2013)