Tokyo's plum blossom haven to axe all its trees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 11:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 11:48pm

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-square-kilometre Umeno Koen (Plum Park) in western Tokyo's Ome City closed on April 4, four days after hosting its annual plum blossom festival.

The park's remaining 1,266 trees will be felled after the clearing of about 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," said a statement.

"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 90 plum-viewing spots nationwide in a Nikkei newspaper reader poll in February 2009.

Ome plans to wait until the area has been free of plum pox for three years before replanting.

Plum trees generally bloom in February and March in Japan, about a month before cherry trees - the more widely recognised sign of spring's arrival in the country.

Plum blossoms can range in color from white to a vivid red. 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 US Department of Agriculture's website. It does not present a danger to consumers.

The discovery of the virus in Umeno Koen was the first instance of the disease in Japan, according to Ome City.