Lone pine may be seed of forest’s rebirth

As the Daily Yomiuri has reported, hope is swirling around the tree that survived March’s tsunami in Japan. Here are excerpts from the article:

The terrifying force of the March 11 tsunami left only one tree standing from a forest of 70,000 in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture. Today, scientists are using that same tree in their efforts to bring back one of the nation’s most beautiful sights.

The Takata Matsubara forest was designated a scenic beauty spot, and before the disaster was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iwate Prefecture. About 70,000 red and black pines grew on an about two-kilometer-long stretch of beach.

Only one tree, estimated to be from 270 to 280 years old, survived the tsunami. It has been a great emotional support to residents, who have dubbed it “kiseki no ippon matsu” (the miraculous lone pine tree).

However, members of the Takata Matsubara Protection Society are concerned the remaining tree might not survive due to excess salinity in the groundwater, as the tsunami eroded much of the beach, leaving the tree about 10 meters from the sea.

The Forest Tree Breeding Center of the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, an independent administrative institution based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, suggested the society propagate the tree through grafting.

With permission from the society, the center collected five-centimeter-long branches with buds from the tree and started to graft them at the center’s Tohoku Regional Breeding Office.

The branches have been grafted to about 100 rootstocks of red and black pines. If the grafts are successful, the branches of the pine tree will grow as part of new trees, preserving the original tree’s genetic material, according to the office.

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