Cherry trees trampled by observers

April 19, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 19 years, 1 month ago

A dying national treasure

This is not original reporting. All information has been compiled from The Washington Post article "Cherry Trees, Loved to Death." Silver Chips Online posts these news summaries to provide readers with a forum for discussion.

The cherry trees situated around the Tidal Basin and East Potomac Park are facing an early demise as their roots are being crushed because of soil compaction. The deadly pressure on the roots is caused by the feet of the 20 million observers who flock to the National Mall every year and the one million who come to Washington exclusively for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Viewers enjoying the D.C. Cherry Blossoms. Click the above picture to see a gallery of photos. Photo courtesy of Adam Schuyler.

The pressure exerted on the trees' roots is caused by observers' feet. This causes the soft clay soil to compact, slowly killing many of the trees round the Tidal Basin. By walking on the roots, visitors are literally squeezing the life out of the trees as trunks and blossoms are suffocated, according to The Washington Post.

According to National Park Service horticulturist Robert DeFeo, even careful guests inevitably stray from the paths and contribute to the pressure on the roots. The result of the trampling is not as apparent as simply picking the blossoms, an illegal act, because the trampling slowly kills the trees, according to DeFeo.

Out of the 3,000 original trees planted in 1912, only 125 remain and are situated in areas that attract fewer tourists than the main Tidal Basin, according to The Washington Post. In an effort to keep the trees alive, some of the soil around the roots is aerated by poking holes into the soil and replacing the clay soil with other soils less prone to compaction.

New paths under construction are 10 feet wide rather than eight feet, as well, in attempt to accommodate the increasing number of yearly visitors. Another option for the National Parks Service is surrounding the trees with woodchips to reduce pressure on the topsoil; however, covering the grass has been deemed unacceptable, according to DeFeo.

Despite the growing problems, there are still 3,700 living cherry trees, and the National Park Service will continue to replace dead specimens, according to Cherry Blossom Festival Executive Director Diana Mayhew. Other plants suffering from soil compaction include the shade trees around the Tidal Basin and the grass on the National Mall.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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