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March 28, 2014

Nishina Otome in full bloom

The Nishina Otome in bloom

Photo by Hiroshi Imaizumi, RIKEN

On a corner of RIKEN’s Wako campus, the cherry blossom viewing season came early.

The beautiful flower pictured here is from the Nishina Otome cherry blossom tree located near one of RIKEN’s early cyclotrons on the Wako campus near Tokyo. This tree was produced through the process of heavy ion breeding by Tomoko Abe’s Accelerator Applications Research Group at the Nishina Center for Accelerator-based Science.

What differentiates the Nishina Otome from other varieties of cherry blossom trees is that conventional trees sprout buds in the summer, but these sprouts must go through a cold period in order to blossom once the air begins to warm up in the early spring. The Nishina Otome, by contrast, does not require this cold spell, and will typically bloom twice during the year. The regular sakura on the Wako campus are just beginning to bloom, but the Nishina Otome is already in full bloom, as seen in the photo.

The Japan Times, a major local English-language paper, went so far as to suggest that the Nishina Otome might help to preserve the long tradition of cherry blossom viewing, which has tended to take place later and later because of rising temperatures.