Symbol tree at UNESCO site in northern Japan that endured typhoon dies

Forest management officials in the Japanese northern prefecture of Aomori have announced the death of a symbolic tree called "Mother Tree" at the UNESCO World Natural Heritage site Shirakami-Sanchi.

The giant beech tree is located in Nishimeya Village in the prefecture. It is estimated to be 400 years old. The 30-meter-high tree was completely broken during a typhoon six years ago.

The forest management office had taken measures to preserve the tree, such as applying chemical agents to the cross-section of the broken trunk to prevent it from decaying.

Officials say they found leaves sprouting from the part of the branches attached to the roots every year. But they could not confirm any new growth Friday last week and a tree surgeon determined the tree had died. The tree is believed to have weakened after the trunk was broken.

Officials say they will not cut down the tree as they want to watch how it changes in the natural environment.

They say the promenade leading to the tree remains closed as it is at a risk of falling.

The mayor of Nishimeya Village, Kuwata Toyoaki, said the tree has a full life span and he wants to thank it.

The head of the local guide association, Watanabe Teiji, said the symbol tree had attracted tourists to the site and he wants it to rest in peace now.