Ginkgo planting seals Scotland Japan conservation partnerships
A tour of the stunning conservation Japanese Valley at Benmore Botanic Garden near Dunoon, in Argyll, will be one of the highlights during an official visit and ceremonial planting by Mr Nozomu Takaoka, Consul General of Japan, Head of Mission at the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh, on Wednesday, October 7.
In the 350th anniversary year of Benmore’s parent organisation, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), Mr Takaoka will join RBGE Chair of the Board of Trustees Dominic Fry in poignant official duty. Seventy-five years after the World War 2 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two will plant a young Ginkgo biloba tree amid Benmore’s conservation collections.
The planting, on the Younger Memorial Walk adjacent to the iconic Redwood Avenue, has a very special back-story. After the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, as life began to return to the city, a number of trees began to bud. In 2015, seeds from the one surviving female Ginkgo was gifted to the City of Edinburgh as part of the international Mayors for Peace project. These seeds were offered into the care of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, where the Horticulture team has nurtured 13 young specimens behind the scenes, in the Nursery.
Not only looking back in an act of humanity, Wednesday’s ceremony will highlight ongoing international partnerships in plant diplomacy and Benmore’s role as part of a world-leading botanic garden. Recent fieldwork in Japan, working in partnership with local agencies, has resulted in seed collection for ex-situ conservation plantings across the four Gardens of RBGE. From seven expeditions since 2003, 531 species and 4,731 specimens of documented wild origin are now part of the Living Collections. These new introductions broaden the genetic base of cultivated material available for research and conservation and also play an important role in public engagement.
Consul General Nozomu Takaoka explained: “As we recognise the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the City of Hiroshima, COVID-19 continues to claim the lives of many around the world. Planting these Gingko trees, grown from the surviving seeds from Hiroshima in 1945, gives us great hope that life is strong and can regenerate; as well as serving as a powerful reminder of the need for world peace. I would like to commend the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, at Benmore, for sharing the legacy of Hiroshima, promoting the spirit of world peace and fortifying the existing bonds between Scotland and Japan at this critical juncture”.
The ceremony will be led by Dominic Fry, Chair of the Board of Trustees at RBGE, who said: “It is an honour and a pleasure to be planting this Gingko tree with our friend Mr Nozomu Takaoka, Consul General of Japan.
“Grown on at RBGE from ‘seeds of hope’, originally derived from a Gingko tree that survived the bombing of Hiroshima, this tree represents the much valued partnership and strong links between the four Gardens of RBGE and Japan. It is also a fine and beautiful symbol of resilience and survival in times of trial and uncertainty.”
Of all the seasons to visit Benmore’s plantings from Japan, autumn is arguably the most spectacular. Enkianthus are now vibrant in yellow and scarlet foliage, sorbus are laden with a multitude of coloured berries and the area around the Pond is a riot of hues as the flaming colours of the Japanese maples are reflected in the water. The beautiful, apricot-tinged, leaves of the katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) present an unmistakeable scent of candyfloss.
Peter Baxter, Curator of Benmore Botanic Garden concluded: “This is an important day to reflect on our core work and the interdependencies essential in protecting the planet. Conservation is a global issue and the international network of botanic gardens, by sharing expertise, has a vital role to play. This work could not be undertaken without partnerships and a coming together of minds for the greater cause, the fight against the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. The Japanese collection is a major component of the outdoor Living Collection at Benmore. The planting of this young Ginkgo will become a reference point in our wider discussions about conservation and plant diplomacy.”
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