Capitol’s iconic cherry trees

Cherry trees show their colors at the Capitol Mall in Salem on a cold day in 2010. Recent storms damaged many of the famous trees.

SALEM — The regionally famous cherry trees on Oregon’s Capitol Mall were damaged in last weekend’s ice storm.

At least two of the 150 Akebono flowering cherry trees that line the park leading up to the statehouse will need to be removed and the rest will be thinned out significantly after sustaining significant damage.

The cherry trees, planted in 1992, attract visitors from around the region when they bloom in March and April and inspired the Capitol’s annual Cherry Blossom Day. The two rows of trees lining the mall, with their gorgeous pink-and-white blooms, are regarded as a visual representation of the coming of spring and the city’s connection to the cherry industry and Japanese culture.

The ice storm last weekend cut power to at least 350,000 customers; many are still without electricity. A layer of ice an inch thick coated power lines and trees.

It’s unknown how the lost limbs will impact the cherry trees’ survival or affect the aesthetics of the mall, said Kevin Strandberg, park manager with the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation.

“We’ll be further assessing the trees in the future once the initial cleanup is done,” he said.

Strandberg said removal might be good for the health of other cherry trees. The two so far identified as needing removal were already growing quite close to neighboring trees, despite frequent pruning, crowding the canopies.

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