About Puget Sound's Cherry Trees

A ceremony honoring the cherry trees will be conducted Monday, May 15, 2017, at 10 a.m., by Rev. Kojo Kakihara of the Tacoma Buddhist Temple and Puget Sound Chaplain Rev. Dave Wright '96. All are welcome to attend.

In addition to improving the safety and usability of the plaza, the Wheelock Student Center renovation project beginning in May 2017 also provides us with the opportunity to tend to the cherry trees that are a vitally important part of the history and culture of our campus. The trees have been replanted over the years as they reach the end of their life span (typically 20-30 years); the current trees were planted and dedicated in 1989.

The current dedicated cherry trees (Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’) will be removed and replaced with new trees in November 2017, which is the ideal time for planting. The new trees will be located uphill from their current site to improve drainage and longevity.

Over the past several months Facilities Services has worked closely with a committee of students, faculty, and staff to provide guidance in the selection, arrangement, and placement of new trees, as well as the planning of a dedication ceremony for the new trees after they are planted in the fall. The committee includes faculty members Jan Leuchtenberger, Mikiko Ludden, and Jonathan Stockdale; Cody Chun ’17, Jon Kenneth Golla ’17, and Paul Huffman ’18 (Asian Pacific American Student Union); Jae Bates ‘18 (Asian American/Pacific Islander Collective); Allison Cannady-Smith, and Nicole Kendrick (Alumni and Parent Relations); Liz Collins (Office of the President); and Bob Kief, Sara Coccia, Joe Kovolyan, and Elizabeth Nestor (Facilities Services).


Cherry Tree History

  • 1940: A newly formed Japanese Students Club gifted the college with Japanese cherry trees, which were planted in a friendship circle in front of a residence hall.
  • 1942: The Puget Sound Trail printed on May 15, 1942, a farewell letter read on behalf of Japanese students departing the college for relocation to internment camps. It read in part: “We have at last come to this place where we must part…We hope that each spring you will watch the cherry trees bloom and grow. It is our hope that these cherry trees will remind you of us. …we leave it behind as a token of our appreciation, and thanks for all that you have done for us. It is our earnest prayer that our friendship will continue to grow.”
  • 1989: New cherry trees were planted on Nov. 17, 1989, in front of Wheelock Student Center, followed by a ceremony to commemorate the internment of Japanese Americans, including dozens of Puget Sound students. A plaque at the site reads: “The flowering cherry trees on Lawrence Plaza are dedicated to the students of Japanese ancestry whose education at Puget Sound was interrupted by their relocation into interment campus in May of 1942.”
  • 2009: The university awarded honorary degrees to 36 students, many posthumously, whose educations were disrupted by the US government’s internment of Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans during WWII.
  • 2017: Due to declining health, the current trees will be removed in May, and new trees will be replanted in November. Appropriate ceremonies will be arranged to honor both the old and new trees.