Blossoms and Beavers

Blossoms and Beavers

In Washington DC’, the symbol of springtime celebration is the flower of an unpredictable, fragile, alien species, the Yoshino cherry (Prunus x yedoensis).  This temperamental tree is a recent arrival to the shores of the Potomac, a  symbolic gift of friendship from a distant nation. The original batch of gift trees was diseased and had to be destroyed.

The trees are short-lived, bear no cherries, require extensive care, and fleetingly flash teensy, lightly-scented  flowers before they leaf out and look dull. Yoshino cherry trees produce no edible fruit, but lots of things eat these sickly shrubs anyway: insects, aphids, borers, spider mites, roundworms, fungi, verticillium wilt, bacterial canker, and beavers.

Yes, beavers. Unlike the cherry tree, the beaver (Castor canadensis) is a native species, and has lived along the Potomac for millenia.  The bark and succulent cambium of imported cherry trees adds variety to the beaver diet, and Park Service arborists surround the slender trunks with corrugated plastic tubing to deter destruction.

Why not make beavers our region’s spring symbol? They mate for life, produce litters of cute “kits”  every spring, and adults have a much stronger, um, fragrance than Yoshino flowers. Cherry blossoms last a couple of weeks; beavers can live up to 20 years. Sure, the critters are four-foot-long, 60 pound rodents, and resemble  hairy brown watermelons trailing canoe paddles, but they’re local, seasonal, and vegetarian. Like other modern, hip Washington couples, beavers share childrearing.

Support  a sustainable springtime celebration next year. Chuck the cherry blossoms; back the beavers.


Image (Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin 2009, after Hiroshige II [Shigenobu or Ryusho]) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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One Response to “Blossoms and Beavers”

  1. Arbor Day in DC « NotionsCapital Says:

    […] official tree of the District of Columbia is the Scarlet Oak (Quercus coccinea), the Potomac area beaver community urges you to plant more of those tasty Yoshino Cherry trees (Prunus x yedoensis) near […]

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