5) Cultivating Sakura Trees in Jayawijaya
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Climate in Jayawijaya may be suitable for cultivation of cherry blossom, or commonly known in Japan as sakura.
Hence, the the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) is making every effort to expand cherry blossom, the typical Japanese plant, in Biological Garden of Wamena in Jayawijaya District, Papua Province.
A cherry blossom (sakura) is the flower of any of several trees of genus Prunus serrulata, which is widely distributed, especially in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere.
Many of the sakura varieties have been cultivated elsewhere for ornamental use, and therefore, LIPI is trying to develop in Wamena, according to Soekarno, a LIPI researcher who is also assistant of the Biological Garden of Wamena.
In the Jayawijaya district town of Wamena, Soekarno remarked on Sunday that Sakura flower cultivation aims only to introduce the people of Papua with this typical plant from Japan.
For the Japanese, Sakura is a sacred plant and when it blossoms, it is a delight to behold. In the spring over a hundred thousand tourists come from every corner of the world to Japan to admire the famous cherry blossom.
Cultivation of sakura in Papua is expected to succeed well, and if this happens, then Indonesian tourists no longer need to go all the way to Japan, but to Wamena instead to enjoy the beauty of the flower.
As Japan is made up of a series of islands with different climatic conditions, the flowering period for Sakura can last for two full months.
In Japan, the first flower buds begin to open in the middle of March on the Southern part of Kyushu and the last buds are finished by the middle of May on Hokkaido Island.
The most important purpose of sakura in Japan in ancient times was its honored function in relation to the moon calendar. Sakura in bloom means it is time for planting rice. Sakura was also a symbol of purity because its petals fell not wilted, but fresh and tender.
The assistant of the Biological Garden of Wamena, Soekarno, remarked that the cultivation of sakura is still through the nursery process and 50 percent has germinated.
According to him, they do the seed propagation outside Papua and then take it to Wamena to be cultivated.
"Some types of sakura that we bring to cultivate in Wamena are more directed to ornamental plants that are not invasive," Soekarno explained.
Cherry blossom is also closely related to other Prunus trees such as the almond, peach, plum and apricot, and more distantly to apples, pears and roses.
In addition to sakura flowers, LIPI also develops some plants from outside Papua, such as Black Wood and Brazilian Grapes (Plinia cauliflora or jabuticaba).
The Brazilian grapetree is a slow-growing evergreen that can reach a height of 15 meters if not pruned.
It has salmon-colored leaves when they are young, which turn green as they mature. The tree prefers moist, rich, lightly acidic soil.
It is widely adaptable, however, and grows satisfactorily even on alkaline beach-sand type soils, so long as they are tended and irrigated.
Soekarno explained that LIPI has always been careful that the plants brought from outside Papua to be cultivated in Wamena do not negatively affect the typical local plants.
There are several examples of types of plants, including sakura, from outside Papua that LIPI wants to cultivate in Wamena, but not in a special purpose for fear of being invasive plants.
"The sakura plant is typically originated from Japan, but the one we develop in Wamena is from the cultivation in the Cibodas Botanical Garden," Soekarno explained.
Cibodas Botanical Garden is located in Cibodas district, West Java Province, some 100 kilometers from Jakarta.
It was founded in 1862 by the Dutch botanist Johannes Elias Teijsmann as an extension of the Bogor Botanical Gardens. The garden is the first place that Cinchona trees were grown in Indonesia for quinine production.
Plants which are exotic to Indonesia, such as Eucalyptus from Australia, Conifers from Europe, and others, have been planted in the area, so there is now a wide collection from various parts of the world in the Cibodas Botanical Garden.
The garden has a collection of almost 6,000 specimens, representing over 1,200 species, and a glass house contains 4000 living specimens of 350 species of cacti and succulents, and 360 species of orchids.
In the Cibodas Botanical Garden, visitors can see the sakura trees that have been planted since 1953.
Visitors to Cibodas can see four varieties of sakura flowers such as Cerasoides Prunus, Prunus Lannesiana, Prunus Yedoensis, and Prunus Jamasakura.
January to February and August to September is a good time for trip to Cibodas Botanical Garden, because this time cherry blossom (Prunus cerocoides) are blooming.
Some varieties of the sakura tree in Cibodas Botanical Garden are from the Tokyo botanical gardens, but the Japanese government presented those sakura trees to former President Megawati Soekarnoputri in 2003.
Sakura trees were also presented to former Jakarta Governor Sutiyoso after the establishment of sister city relations between Jakarta and Tokyo some years ago.