Orchids find new home in Tama Hills
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Beyond Yokota Air Base's south runway, through the wire fence and across the road, is a small 16-acre forest, home to Indigenous flora and fauna that hide amongst the lights that guide approaching aircraft.
Within this dynamic ecosystem is the rare cephalanthera falcata, or, Golden Orchid. In springtime, the plant blooms a bright yellow flower with five slim petals and is designated a vulnerable species by Japan's Ministry of Environment.
"The Golden Orchid thrives in a shady area such as underneath a tree," said Yoshitaka Yamaguchi, an environmental engineer with the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron.
The species is facing an increasing threat of endangerment as the trees that have been providing their natural canopy are interfering with Yokota's approach lighting system, making it necessary for the trees' removal.
In danger of losing their home at Yokota, Yamaguchi and his team carefully surveyed the area to find an alternate habitat for the orchids.
To preserve these rare flowers, better known as "kinran" amongst Japanese locals, the 374th Civil Engineer Squadron transplanted them to a new home in Tama Hills, located just 25 km from Yokota.
"Tama Hills provides the best-suited home," Yamaguchi said. "It is perfect; it provides the shade the plants need."
According to Albert Bancroft, the golf course superintendent at Tama Hills, plans to protect and preserve the existing species at the facility are well underway. As the orchids are planted at Tama Hills, they will continue to be protected by the staff through the Installation Natural Resource Management Plan and the Wildlife Habitat Program.
Recently, a total of 80 Golden Orchids were relocated from Yokota to Tama Hills.
"This is one of many conservation programs the environmental office at Yokota promotes to help protect the environment," Yamaguchi said.