The flowering perennial hama-nadeshiko, or Dianthus japonicus, was believed to have been totally wiped out in Iwate Prefecture in the Great East Japan Earthquake, but three specimens were found blooming Saturday in Rikuzen-Takata by a couple who lost their home in the tsunami.
Hama-nadeshiko, which means "pink on the shore," grows 20 to 30 centimeters high and is found near the ocean. A field survey last summer by the Research Institute for Environmental Sciences and Public Health of Iwate Prefecture (I-RIEP) was unable to locate the plant in the prefecture's tsunami-devastated coastal areas, leading the institute to declare the plant extinct in the prefecture.
I-RIEP believes a root clump that may have been underground escaped fatal damage from the tsunami and has put up new growth.
"It's a great discovery. We're happy to have our earlier announcement corrected," an I-RIEP official said.
The plant is found in Honshu and Kyushu, even down to the Okinawa region, and sports small, pale purple flowers in July and August. A coastal area in Rikuzen-Takata was said to be the northernmost limit of the plant's growth in the wild. It is listed by the prefecture as a rare species that has difficulty surviving in the wild.
Although there were about 10 root clumps growing wild in a bed of sandy soil about 30 meters from the ocean before the earthquake, I-RIEP did not find any hama-nadeshiko in its survey last summer, and reported in this year's June issue of the Japanese Journal of Medicinal Resources that the plant had "gone extinct in Iwate Prefecture."
However, the research institute's finding was happily reversed Saturday when Takashi Kikuchi, 60, and his wife Mitsuyo, 64, found three Dianthus japonicus growing in the wild sand bed. Flourishing amid disaster debris, including a fallen power pole, one plant had grown to about 30 centimeters and even had two blooming flowers.
The former prefectural government official and his wife, who currently live in temporary housing in Kamaishi in the prefecture, lived in the area and collected seeds from the sand bed to grow in their garden before their house was swept away in the tsunami. They came upon the hama-nadeshiko on a visit to the site of their former home.
Kikuchi said the plant's survival of the tsunami gave them hope. "I hope these root clumps gradually increase and show us more flowers as we work to rebuild step by step," he said.
Despite Saturday's find, I-RIEP researcher Tomoaki Oyamada said, "The plant is still in danger of extinction in the prefecture, so we need to carefully observe these samples."
Oyamada confirmed the flowers and leaves belonged to hama-nadeshiko through photographs.