Complicated Roots: The Story Behind Washington's Iconic Cherry Blossom Trees

Cherry blossom expert tells the story of how the first trees sent from Japan were burned.
4:54 | 04/15/14

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Transcript for Complicated Roots: The Story Behind Washington's Iconic Cherry Blossom Trees
Welcome the power players I'm Susan solemnly. And on this edition we're on the edge of the Potomac River and the tidal basin in Washington DC. Where we're celebrating those iconic trees -- have become symbols of Washington and spring time. They're the cherry blossoms and joined by and McClellan who's written two books about the cherry blossoms. And as an all around expert. On -- And so much for -- -- today my pleasure. It's a look at these trees and just think that they -- beautiful. And and love them just for that but in reality their symbols of a grand international friendship that's right Hayward gets the original ones were -- from the city of Tokyo -- the city of Washington the first -- came in 1910. And honor of First Lady Helen Taft. But what they sent were older trees and of course treated in the ground have bugs and worms and all sorts of pests so that Department of Agriculture. Inspected them deemed them impossible and had forced him to be burned. Decision -- yes the decision was made by president tapped himself whose life was so instrumental happening in our people were crushed it was just awful. And there was a young diplomat -- to tell -- -- of Tokyo what happens he said. -- seems to be your first president Washington. Had a problem is cherry trees that he overcame it. Weekend to -- about next year they center 3000 they're waiting to the issue of -- we -- today it's really interesting that. First Lady Helen Taft had such an interest. In these trees and in Japanese art in general how did she come to have that appreciation she visited Japan on their way to Manila. Because they were based in Manila for several years mrs. Taft had seen the trees not -- -- -- you know they were planted and -- -- Washington which was just being under construction at that time. Would be a great place where where was she right -- right. She had a vision for this park and I think it was one of the first projects that she undertook this -- that he's right and it was actually did tell us who realize you could have a tropical or semi tropical city and be healthy. It didn't have to be a swamp and -- Meyer because his -- while writing his mom was also where the sewage. Ended up this is not healthy here. And look I don't know how hard is it to care for these trees I hear this a tree crew that's part of the National Park Service -- their responsibility. Mainly they have to -- them and -- -- make sure that their main branches are strong and that. Other branches that are -- cut off for tweaks that are growing where they shouldn't are removed. And then they also air raid around the -- because the trees breathe through their -- And we are actually hurting the trees off the -- every time someone -- a blossom. That tree will never grow there again it won't bloom there again it won't have to -- and that's. And people -- the blossoms all the time exactly we all -- and today actually there wide spreading trees don't grow very high actually it's a funny story. And 1912 when they plan of the gift -- -- came with instructions it was a Japanese and nobody -- -- tremendous. So I think planet it according to the instructions it would have been groves of trees and malaise we didn't plan -- -- where they were planted as you could see pop pop pop pop pop. And what that does is it creates this lovely -- like back because the branches intersect. But means that they they can't go to their school -- because there kind of source but it's still came up -- so yes I think I don't know we'll probably that -- were all you know -- who -- time. So this really a living garden that requires a lot of upkeep and first ladies ever since and it has -- Have sort of taken on that role especially Lady Bird Johnson was involved -- them and the Japanese skaters -- several thousand trees. To the United States in her honor those are planted around the Washington monument a wonderful waiter remembered the generosity of the people Tokyo. Yes -- and pastries when they gave. The gift of trees were giving something of themselves because they were grateful to the United States for brokering the treaty of Portsmouth which into the -- of Japanese war. -- the first time Japan was treated as us. Bona fide member of the international community. And his people it's really a reverend quality feel about the trees that they've attacked Hemingway that -- -- -- for them at the met. That I love about them is that. The Japanese. Goddess of dawn saw that. Those moves in winter -- there and she briefed on them and that's the trees came to be and got their. So it's kind of like after -- long -- -- our winner and here's spring in his life again and it comes with a bang and it comes with a -- Thank you for chronicling it for -- and helping explain. Q my pleasure that's all the time we have for this edition of power players I'm Susan follow me for ABC news and Yahoo! News. Please join us again next time.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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