Survivor Tree HIroshima nuclear bomb
Staff at the San Diego Botanic Garden plant the special ginkgo. Photo credit: Courtesy, San Diego Botanic Garden

The nuclear bombs that dropped in Japan nearly 80 years ago appeared to destroy anything in their paths. But a new planting at the San Diego Botanic Garden proves otherwise.

The Encinitas garden next month will host the Survivor Tree Commemoration to dedicate a newly planted ginkgo tree descended from a mother tree that survived the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima.

The event, in partnership with the Green Legacy Hiroshima (GLH) Initiative, will take place at 4:15 p.m. Aug. 5, a day ahead of the 78th anniversary of the first of the two U.S. bombings of Japan. An estimated 120,000 perished in the attacks that ended World War II, and scores more later died due to radiation exposure. 

GLH is a global campaign aimed at spreading the universal messages of caution and hope represented by the unique survivor trees of Hiroshima.

Known in Japanese as Hibakujumoku, organizers hope the trees bring awareness to the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, and nuclear weapons in particular.

Currently, seeds and saplings from the bombed trees are growing in more than 40 countries in a long-term campaign, as part of other efforts to establish a nuclear-free planet. 

The botanic garden received its ginkgo as a seedling from Shukkeien garden in Japan in 2020. It was planted in June. 

“If trees can survive such an event, and their progeny can be shared across the world, there’s clearly so much we can do together to make the world a better place for people and plants,” said the garden’s President and CEO Ari Novy, Ph.D. “We are honored to be part of this initiative and invite the community to join us in commemorating the history, legacy and symbol of peace that this beautiful tree represents.”

Novy was part of a select group of plant scientists and botanic garden experts invited by GLH to visit Hiroshima in November. The scientists witnessed survivor trees throughout the city and helped gather seeds to preserve and grow. 

Often referred to as a living fossil, the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is one of the oldest tree species with the potential to live up to 1,000 years.

Select portions of the garden will be accessible until 6 p.m. for the event, with the last entry at 4:30 p.m.