A Tokyo park once named Japan’s best for viewing plum blossoms is cutting down all its trees after losing a five-year battle with plum pox.
The 45-sq.-km Umeno Koen (Plum Park) in Ome, western Tokyo, closed on Friday, four days after hosting its annual plum blossom festival, according to the city’s website. The park’s remaining 1,266 trees will be felled after the clearing of some 2,600 others failed to contain a 2009 outbreak of the disease.
“It is with great sadness that, in order to stop the spread of the disease and to begin replanting as soon as possible, we will cut down all the plum trees in Umeno Koen,” reads a statement the city released in February. “In the near future, when it’s safe for replanting, we will strive to make our city famous for plum blossoms again.”
Umeno Koen ranked first among some 90 plum-viewing spots nationwide in a Nikkei newspaper reader poll in February 2009, the city reports. Ome plans to wait until the area has been free of plum pox for three years before replanting, according to its website.
Plum trees generally bloom between February and March, about a month before the famed cherry trees, which are the more widely recognized sign of spring’s arrival. Plum blossoms can range in color from white to a vivid red but often resemble cherry blossoms.
Plum pox is the “most devastating” viral disease among stone fruit — which include plums, apricots and cherries — and is generally transmitted by aphids, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website. It does not present a danger to consumers, the department said.
The discovery of the virus in Umeno Koen was the first instance of the disease in Japan, according to Ome.