Survivor Trees: Hiroshima’s Phoenix Trees
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When the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, a majority of its buildings were completed destroyed. With landscapes demolished, soils charred and radiation rampant, Dr. Harold Jacobsen, a scientist from the Manhattan Project, told the Washington Post Hiroshima “will be barren of life and nothing will grow for 75 years.”
Phoenix Trees in 1945 (Photo by Eric Kim)
The trees had a different idea.
Chinese Parasol trees (aka Phoenix Trees) about 1300 meters from hypocenter, had no major structures between them and the blast. They were hit hard. They lost all of their branches and their trunks were hallowed out and burned on the side facing the blast. They were assumed, and understandably so, to be dead. But the very next spring, new leaves budded.
Some trees provide us with shelter. Some trees provide us with food. The Chinese Parasol trees provided the citizens of Hiroshima with something else they desperately needed.
Seeing this new life, people dazed by the tumultuous aftermath of the atomic bombing and the war took courage.
Over 60 years and one transplant later, the trees still survive, reminding us that is it possible to recover and rebuild.
Phoenix Tree in 2007 (Photo by Eric Kim)