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Tree Planting, Donations Mark Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month

Asian Americans are expressing pride in their heritage by donating trees to UC’s world-renowned campus green spaces.

Date: 5/22/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-2019

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More trees – especially those related to the Asian influence on landscaping – will grace the University of Cincinnati’s Uptown campus, thanks to the generosity of the region’s Asian American groups. A tree planting ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, will celebrate the contributed trees, which have been donated to mark Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month.

President Santa J. Ono, his wife Wendy Yip, and University Architect Beth McGrew will preside at the tree planting, which will be followed by a brief tea reception on level 1 of Van Wormer, immediately following the ceremony. The tree planting will take place in the green space between the University of Cincinnati fountain and Van Wormer. (Rain location is level 1 of Van Wormer).

The donation of trees began with President Ono’s investiture in April, when his family donated three cherry-blossom trees, which were planted on McMicken Commons.  Dr. Ono is the son of Japanese immigrants to the United States. He is the first Asian American president of UC and one of a few Asian Americans who are presidents of a U.S. research university.

Asian American affinity groups from the Tristate area soon joined in the effort to raise money for more trees to recognize Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month during May. Groups donating to the initiative have been invited to the ceremony. They include the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), UC Chapter of the Society of Chinese-American Professors, Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Music Society Board, Greater Cincinnati Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Cincinnati Korean American Association, and Asian Indian groups, as well as individual, Asian American faculty and administrators at UC. These organizations want the donated trees to serve as a reminder that Asian Americans have contributed greatly to American society, despite having faced racial discrimination throughout their history in the United States.  The JACL donations were made to also commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese Americans who were released from World War II internment camps to Cincinnati. In addition, the trees celebrate Asian and Pacific Americans becoming part of mainstream America.

The university selected three types of trees for the initiative, according to UC Senior Planner for Landscape Design and Construction Len Thomas. They were selected in line with the university’s campus beautification plans. Each genus selected reflects the significant influence that Asian horticulture has had on the American landscape, Thomas said.  The trees selected are:

  • The ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese Maple – Japanese maples have been valued in their native landscape since the 16th century, but first made their way to Europe and North America from Japan in the early 19th century. Today, there are nearly 350 distinct genetic varieties of Japanese maple.  The ‘Bloodgood’  variety has the deepest burgundy colored foliage, Thomas said, and also evokes UC’s colors.
  • The Weeping Higan Cherry – A native to Japan, this medium-sized tree blooms with pale pink flowers in late March and early April.  It became associated with Washington D.C. in 1912, when the mayor of Tokyo gave a gift of more than 3,000 cherry trees to the United States. The First Lady, wife of UC alumnus William Howard Taft, and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two trees from Japan on the banks of the Potomac tidal basin. Three years later, the United States reciprocated with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.
  • ‘Stellar’ Dogwood’ -- This hardy ornamental builds on the theme of the dogwood gift from the United States to Japan.  The ‘Stellar’ dogwood was developed by Dr. Elwin Orton of Rutgers University and was introduced to the landscaping market in the early 1990s. This type of dogwood demonstrates greater insect and disease resistance than the native American dogwood. The ‘Stellar’ dogwoods bloom in late April or early May just after native dogwoods have faded.