Breeding Science
Online ISSN : 1347-3735
Print ISSN : 1344-7610
ISSN-L : 1344-7610
Native fruit tree genetic resources in Japan
Hiroyuki Iketani
Author information

2016 Volume 66 Issue 1 Pages 82-89


The diversity of climate, from subarctic to subtropical, and the complex geological history of Japan have produced a rich biodiversity. The flora includes several hundred species of native woody plants with edible fleshy fruits or nuts. People have eaten them from prehistoric times until about a half century ago. In Hokkaidō and the Ryūkyū Islands nut species had an important role in the diet, but fleshy fruits were also eaten until recently. Only Castanea crenata and a few minor species became domesticated as edible fruit trees in pre-modern times. Recently, Vitis coignetiae, Lonicera caerulea, Akebia quinata, Akebia trifoliata, Stauntonia hexaphylla, and Actinidia arguta have entered small-scale cultivation. The conservation of the germplasm of many of these native species, both in situ and ex situ, is precarious.


Biodiversity in Japan

The Japanese archipelago is located on the east coast of the Asian continent. The diversity of its climate, from subarctic to subtropical, with high humidity and precipitation throughout has produced a rich biodiversity (Iwatsuki et al. 1993–2016, Ohwi 1965). The connection with the continent several times before the last glacial maximum may have promoted migration from north and south to produce a flora with mixed subarctic, temperate, and subtropical elements. By contrast, its isolation after the last glacial maximum may have stimulated the phylogenetic differentiation of taxa from the continental mother taxa. However, this biodiversity hotspot (Mittermeier et al. 2004) is also one of the most populous regions in the world. The population pressure poses threats to wild ecosystems both directly via exploitation and indirectly via environmental degradation. More than 2000 species of flora are now threatened (Ministry of Environment of Japan 2012).

Definition of Japanese native fruit trees in this review

Japan has about 5000 species of seed plants (Kajita 2003). About 1000 species are woody, either trees, shrubs, or vines (Satake et al. 1989), and these include many fleshy fruit and nut species. In addition, some species were introduced in the Middle Ages or before. Formerly, some commercial fruit species, including Pyrus pyrifolia (Burm. f.) Nakai and Amygdalus persica L. (=Prunus persica (L.) Batsch), were thought to have originated from native plants (e.g., Kikuchi 1948). Now they are considered to have been introduced in pre-modern times (“archaeophytes”), though empirical confirmation is still rare (e.g., Iketani et al. 2010a, 2012). These introduced plants (listed in Table 1) are excluded from subsequent treatment in this review.

Table 1 Fruit trees introduced to Japan in pre-modern times
Species Period of Introduction Literature1 (introduced) Literature1 (native)
Gingko biloba L. 13–14th Century Hori and Hori (1997)
Ficus carica L. 17th Century? Kikuchi (1948)
Eriobotrya japonica (Thunb.) Lindl. Prehistoric Kobayashi (1990) Kikuchi (1948)
Malus asiatica Nakai 12th Century?
14–15th Century
Kitamura (1979)
Kobayashi (1990)
Armeniaca vulgaris Lam. (Prunus armeniaca L.) Prehistoric Kikuchi (1948), Kobayashi (1990)
Armeniaca mume (Siebold et Zucc.) de Vriese (Prunus mume Siebold et Zucc.) Prehistoric Kitamura (1979)
Kobayashi (1990)
Kikuchi (1948)
Prunus salicina Lindl. Prehistoric Kitamura (1979)
Kobayashi (1990)
Kikuchi (1948)
Amygdalus persica L. (Prunus persica (L.) Batsch. Prehistoric Kitamura (1979)
Kobayashi (1990)
Kikuchi (1948)
Pyrus pyrifolia (Burm.f.) Nakai Prehistoric Kobayashi (1990) Kikuchi (1948)
Diospyros kaki Thunb. Prehistoric Kobayashi (1990) Kikuchi (1948)
Vitis vinifera L. 7th Century? Kobayashi (1990)
Ziziphus jujuba Mill. 6–7th Century Kobayashi (1990)
Citrus spp. 6–7th Century Kobayashi (1990)
Punica granatum L. 12th Century? Kikuchi (1948)
1  Literature supporting the hypothesed origin.

In a broad sense, all non-poisonous fleshy fruits and nuts are edible, and people might have eaten them, especially during times of famine. However, this review covers only plants that were eaten regularly. It excludes plants used only as folk medicine or to produce fruit liquor.

This review covers species supported by archeological evidence (e.g., Terasawa and Terasawa 1981), old historical documents (e.g., Fujiwara et al. 927), or ethnological information (e.g., Sarashina and Sarashina 1976); species that are now commercially grown or marketed even at a minor scale; and species with edible congeners in other regions of the world. In all, 70 genera are included (Table 2).

Table 2 List of Japanese native fruit and nut species. The arrangement of families and scientific names follows Yonekura (2012)
Family Genus Edible part1 Growth Form2 Life Form3 Vegetation Zone4 Floristic Region5 Beginning of Cultivation6 Congeneric cultivated species7 Number of species8 Number of threatened taxon9 Representative (possibly) utilized species Literature10
Cycadaceae Cycas N S E ST A, Oc 1 C. revolta Thunb. Sa, Ta
Pinaceae Pinus N S, T E Sa-ST N + 7 1 P. koraiensis Siebold et Zucc.
Cephalotaxaceae Cephalotaxus N S, T E Tm-W EA 8 C. harringtonia (Knight ex Forbes) K.Koch W
Taxaceae Torreya N S, T E Tm-W W 1 T. nucifera (L.) Siebold et Zucc. T, W
Laulaceae Cinamomum F S, T E ST, T A 7 2 C. yabunikkei H.Ohba Sa
Litsea F S, T E W-T A 9 1 L. coreana H.Lév. Sa
Pandanaceae Pandanus F T E ST OW + 1 1 P. odoratissumus L.f. Am, Om, Ta, Sa
Lardizabalaceae Akebia F V D Tm-W EA R 2 A. quinata (Houtt.) Decne., A. trifoliata (Thunb.) Koidz. F, Ma
Stauntonia F V E W EA R 1 S. hexaphylla (Thunb.) Decne. F
Grossulariaceae Ribes F S D Tm N + 9 3 R. japonicum Maxim., R. latifolium Janz. Ma, S
Vitaceae Ampelopsis F V D, E Tm-W AA 4 A. glandulosa (Wall.) Momiy. W
Vitis F V D Tm-ST N R + 5 2 V. coignetiae Pulliat ez Planch, V. flexuosa Thunb. Hk, Om, S, T, Ta
Rosaceae Amelanchier F S, T D Tm N + 1 A. asiatica (Siebold et Zucc.)
Endl. ex Walp.
Cerasus F T D Tm-W EU + 10 4 C. jamasakura (Siebold ex Koidz.) H. Ohba
Cragaegus F T D Tm N + 2 2 C. chlorosarca Maxim.
Malus F T D Tm N + 5 2 M. toringo (Siebold) Siebold, M. baccata Borkh. S
Padus F T D Tm N + 4 P. avium Mill. Ai
Pyrus F T D Tm EU O + 2 2 P. ussuriensis Maxim. Ma
Rhaphiolepis N S E W EA 1 R. indica (L.) Lindl. Sa, Ta, W
Rosa F S D Tm-W N R 12 2 R. rugosa Thunb. Fu, Hk, S
Rubus F S D, E Tm-W N + 44 10 R. idaeus L. F, S, Sa, T, Ta
Sorbus F S, T D Tm N + 4 S. commixta Hedl.
Elaegnaceae Elaeagnus F S, T, V D, E Tm-W N R + 16 5 E. multiflora Thunb. Ma, S, T, Sa, Ta
Rhamnaceae Berchemia F S, T D, E Tm-W W 5 B. lineata (L.) DC. Ta
Sageretia F S, T D, E W-ST W 1 S. thea (Osbeck) M.C. Johnst. Ta
Moraceae Bloussonetia F S, T D Tm-W EA 3 B. papyrifera (L.) l’Hér. ex. Vent. Om, W
Ficus F S, T D, E W-ST T + 15 2 F. erecta Thunb. F, T, Ta, W
Morus F S, T D W AA + 4 1 M. australis Poir. Om, Sa
Fagaceae Castanea N T D Tm-W N O + 1 C. crenata Siebold et Zucc. F, Fu, Ht, M, T, W
Castanopsis N T E W EA 2 C. sieboldii (Makino) Hatus. ex
T.Yamaz. et Mashiba
Om, M, Ta, W
Fagus N T D Tm N 2 F. crenata Blume M, W
Lithocarpus N T E W-T AA 2 L. edulis (Makino) Nakai F, M, Om, Ta, W
Quercus N T D, E Tm-W N 15 1 C. crispa Blume, C. serrata
Fu, Ht, M, Om, S, T, Ta, W
Myricaceae Myrica F T E W N O + 2 M. rubra Lour. Om, Sa, T, Ta, W
Juglandaceae Juglans N T D Tm N + 1 J. mandshurica Maxim. Fu, Hk, Ma, M, S, T, W
Betulaceae Corylus N S D Tm N + 2 C. heterophylla Fisch. ex Besser F, W
Celastraceae Euonymus N S, T, V D, E Tm, W N 19 6 E. carnosus Hemsl. Ta
Gymnosporia N S E ST-T W 1 1 G. diversifolia Maxim. Sa
Elaeocarpaceae Elaeocarpus N T E W-T OW 4 1 E. japonicus Siebold et Zucc. Om, Ta
Euphobiaceae Mallotus N S, T D, E W-T OW 3 M. japonicus (L.f.) Müll.Arg. W
Phyllantaceae Antidesma F S, T E W-T OW 4 A. japonicum Siebold et Zucc. Ta
Bischofia F T E ST-T OW, Oc 1 B. javanica Blume Sa, Ta
Salicaceae Idesia F T D Tm-W EA 1 I. poplycarpa Maxim. L, Om, Ta
Calophyllaceae Calophyllum F T E ST-T T 1 C. inophyllum L. Ta
Combretaceae Terminalia N T D, E ST-T OW, Oc 2 T. catappa L. Ta
Mytaceae Syzigium F S, T E ST-T A, Oc + 2 S. buxifolium Hook. et Arn. Ta
Melastomataceae Melastoma F S E ST-T A, Oc 2 2 M. candidum D.Don Ta, Sa
Anacardiaceae Choerospondias F T D W EA 1 1 C. axillaris (Roxb.) B.L.Burtt et
Sapindaceae Aesculus N T D Tm N 1 A. turbinata Blume Ht, M, W
Rutaceae Phellodendron F T D Tm EA 1 P. amurense Rupr. Fu, Hk
Toddalia F V W ST-T A 1 T. asiatica (L.) Lam. Ta
Malvaceae Firmiana F T D ST-T OW 1 F. simplex (L.) W.F.Wight Ta
Santalaceae Buckleya N S D Tm-W AA 1 B. lanceolata (Siebold et Zucc.)
Cornaceae Cornus F T D Tm-W N + 4 2 C. kousa Buerger ex Hance
Sapotaceae Planchonella F S, T E ST-T T 2 P. obovata (R.Br.) Pierre Ta
Pentaphyllacae Adinandra F S, T E ST-T OW, Oc 2 A. ryukuensis Masam. Ta
Ebenaceae Diospyros F T D, E Tm-ST T + 6 2 D. japonica Siebold et Zucc. Ma, Sa, T, Ta
Primulaceae Ardisia F S, T E W-T T 8 2 A. quinquegona Blume, A. sieboldii Miq. Ta, Sa
Theaceae Camellia N? S, T E W EA 4 C. japonica L. Sa, W
Symplocaceae Symplocos F S, T D, E Tm-T T 24 3 S. sp. (undetermined) Sa
Actinidiaceae Actinicia F V D, E Tm-W EA R + 4 A. arguta (Siebold et Zucc.)
Planch. ex Miq, A. polygama (Siebold et Zucc.) Planch. ex
Maxim., A. rufa (Siebold et Zucc.)
Planch. ex Miq.
Fu, Hk, Om, S, Ta, W
Sauraria F S, T E ST-T AA 1 S. tristyla DC. Ta
Ericaceae Empetrum F S E Sa A 1 E. nigrum L. Fu, Hk
Vaccinium F S D, E Sa-W N R + 19 5 V. oxycoccos L., V. oldhamii Miq, V. uliginosum L. Hk, S, Sa, Ta
Boraginaceae Ehretia F T, S D, E W-T T 4 E. dicksonii Hance, E. microphylla Lam. Am, Om, Ta
Oleaceae Ligustrum F S, T D, E Tm-W W 9 1 L. japonicum Thunb. Sa
Goodeniaceae Scaevola F S, V E ST-T T 1 S. taccada (Gaetrn.) Roxb. Ta
Adoxaceae Sambucus F S D Tm N + 2 S. racemosa L. Ai
Viburnum F S, T D, E Tm-T N 16 3 V. suspensum Lind. Ma, Sa
Caplifoliaceae Lonicera F S D Tm-W N R + 23 14 L. caerulea L. Ma, S
Total 387 84
1  F, fleshy part; N, nut.

2  S, shrub; T, tree; V, vine.

3  D, deciduous; E, evergreen.

4  Sa, subarctic; Tm, temperate; W, warm temperate; ST, subtropical; T, tropical.

5  A, Asian; AA, Asia-American; EA, East Asian; EU, Eurasian; N, Northern Hemisphere; OW, Old world; Oc, Oceanian; T, Tropical; W, Worldwide.

6  O, Old (pre-modern); R, Recently (after World War II).

7  Presence of congeneric edible cultivated species in other countries.

8  Number of species in the genus native to Japan (Yonekura 2012).

Usage of scientific names and Romanization of Japanese in this review

As this review lists many species unfamiliar to breeding science and horticulture, a simple standard for the usage of scientific names is necessary. The review uses names adopted in Yonekura (2012), which is a thorough compilation of the scientific names of vascular plants in Japan, including recent nomenclatural changes after Iwatsuki et al. (1993–2016), and which is now the de facto standard. Full details, including updates, are available on line (Yonekura and Kajita 2003–).

The scientific name of a taxon may be very long and detailed (e.g., using the ranks of subspecies and variety) owing to recent reclassifications based on the broad species concept. This review uses detailed names only when necessary. Otherwise, a simple binomial combination of genus and species is used for convenience and simplicity.

Romanized transcriptions of Japanese names mostly follow the Library of Congress and American Library Association (2012), with a few exceptions such as proper nouns.

Regional usage of fruits and nuts

Japanese fruit and nut trees grow from the subarctic to the subtropics. The Ainu people, the indigenous inhabitants of subarctic Hokkaidō, ate fruits of Empetrum nigrum L. and Vaccinium oxycoccos L., which grow in both uplands and lowlands. They also ate fruits of Phellodendron amurense Rupr., Malus baccata (L.) Borkh. var. mandshurica (Maxim.) C. K. Schneid., Padus avium Mill. (=Prunus padus L.), Rosa rugosa Thunb., Rubus idaeus L., and Sambucus racemosa L., all of which are distributed in the upper-elevation deciduous forest zone and grow widely in the lowlands of Hokkaidō. Species of Ribes, Malus, Rubus, Lonicera and Vaccinium might have also been eaten.

These plants also grow at high altitudes in temperate Honshū but were rarely or never used there, possibly because their habitats were remote from settlements. One exception is Vaccinium uliginosum L., which grows wild above 1500 m a.s.l. in volcanic desert vegetation on Mount Asama and surrounding areas, where local people gathered wild fruits for decades after World War II (Koike and Miyagawa 1974). This practice is now prohibited, because most of the habitat is protected. Another exception is Pyrus ussuriensis var. ussuriensis in the upper deciduous forest zone in northern Honshū (Iwate Prefecture). Trees introgressed with archaeophytic P. pyrifolia grow wild in this area as well as in cultivation (Iketani et al. 2010a, Katayama and Uematsu 2006). Whether this species began to be used before or after introgression is still unknown. This is discussed in more detail by Katayama (2016) in this issue.

Archaeological studies of the utilization of plants in the subtropical Ryūkyū Islands were limited until recent reports of the remains of seeds or stones of many species (e.g., Omatsu and Tsuji 2001). On the other hand, ethnological studies are abundant (e.g., Amano 1982, Sato and Nohara 1997, Tawada 1982). According to these studies, people may have eaten many tree fruits, especially during times of famine (Table 2).

Nut species have been more generally utilized than fleshy fruit species since the hunting-and-gathering age (Taneishi 2014). The most important reason is that nuts are rich in carbohydrates or fats and are thus highly nutritious. Hatakeyama (1989) estimated that wild nuts might have supplied about one-third of the daily energy intake during winter in mountainous settlements of the Kitakami Mountains, where the harvest of cereal crops had been always insufficient. Another reason is that nut genera such as Quercus and Castanea are usually dominant in vegetation, and people can easily gather nuts in abundance. Although Aesculus species contain saponins and most Quercus species contain tannins, people have used them for food by leaching out these components. Nuts have been utilized in almost all areas from Hokkaidō to the Ryūkyū Islands. The Ainu people used only nuts of Quercus, although Aesculus is common in southern Hokkaidō (Watanabe 1975). People continued to eat wild nuts until the 1940s in some regions (Hatakeyama 1989, in the Kitakami Mountains; Sato and Nohara 1997, in the Ryūkyū Islands).

Large seeds of some non-amentiferous species such as Terminalia and Euonymus have been used in the Ryūkyū Islands but their dietary use is almost unknown in mainland Japan (Table 2). It is perhaps because they commonly grow in that Islands. Other large-seeded species in addition to the Fagaceae, Juglans, and Aesculus may also have been eaten in Honshū and Hokkaidō if thinking the high dietary value of seeds.

Domestication of Japanese native wild fruit trees

Domestication in pre-modern times

Humans arrived in Japan around 35 000 years BP or later (Hudson 2007, Keally 2009). During the hunting-and-gathering age, people gathered and ate native fruits, as well as other wild plant and animal foods. These wild plants continued to be utilized after the beginning of agriculture (Terasawa and Terasawa 1981), but only a few became domesticated, such as the vegetable species Cryptotaenia canadensis (L.) DC. subsp. japonica (Hassk.) Hand.-Mazz., Petasites japonicus (Siebold et Zucc.) Maxim., and Dioscorea japonica Thunb. Although not important vegetables now, they might have been eaten before the modern age.

Among the native species listed (Table 2), Castanea crenata is the only one to become a major cultivated crop. It is also one of the few species domesticated in pre-modern times, along with Myrica rubra and Pyrus ussuriensis var. ussuriensis. Cultivation of C. crenata may have begun in prehistoric times, and its utilization for timber was also important in ancient times (Amino 2001). Myrica rubra grows wild in evergreen forests in middle and western Japan and has long been used as firewood. Its cultivation as a fruit tree may have begun in the late Edo period (19th century). However, the present leading cultivars are said to have been introduced from China (Wada 2000).

This paucity of cultivated native species was perhaps influenced by the presence of many introduced fruit trees. Large fleshy fruits are lacking among Japanese native species. Mammal-dispersed fruits, which are usually larger than bird-dispersed fruits, are rare among Japanese temperate species, occurring only in Akebia, Stauntonia, Actinidia, Pyrus, Chaenomeles, and Cornus kousa. The first three have been locally commercialized in modern times, as described below. Subtropical genera with mammal-dispersed fruits, such as Syzygium and Toddalia, have not been cultivated.

Recent domestication

High economic growth and cultural westernization after World War II increased the diversity of diet and foodstuffs in Japan. The consumption of fruits increased in both quantity and quality (such as jams, juices, and confectioneries). However, consumption stagnated and fell after the high economic growth ended, and some production areas tried to convert existing crops into new products (Uchiyama 1996). In areas depopulated by the high economic growth, various projects for reactivation of the local economy have been attempted since the 1960s. In the agricultural sector, fruit crops were developed as specialty products and matched with tourism strategies. Fruits and nuts are produced not only as regular products, but also as value-added products for gifts and souvenirs.

Although major fruits such as citrus, apple, and table grape are grown for product differentiation strategy, some minor fruits such as introduced berry and tropical fruit species also have a role. The most specialized products are newly domesticated native fruit trees. Among 8 genera with 11 species (Table 3), Vitis coignetiae and Actinidia spp. (A. arguta, A. polygama and A. rufa) have congeneric major fruit species, V. vinifera and A. deliciosa, respectively. Vaccinium also has many cultivated species, including blueberry and cranberry, in temperate and subarctic climate zones in other countries. Lonicera caerulea is also cultivated in Russia and North America. Recently, Japanese cultivars were introduced into the USA and their adaptability to the climate was evaluated (Hummer et al. 2012, Thompson and Chaovanalikit 2002). The other five genera do not have any other major species grown for food in other countries. The most notable are Akebia (A. quinata and A. trifoliata) and Stauntonia (S. hexaphylla), both endemic to East Asia (Takhtajan 1986), and thus almost unknown in the West as fruit.

Table 3 New commercial cultivation of Japanese native fruit trees
Species Production (t) Representative Regions Source
2003 2012
Akebia quinata and A. trifoliata 25.7 8.9 Yamagata, Ehime, Akita
Stauntonia hexaphylla Shiga 1)
Vitis coignetiae 135.6 186.7 Iwate, Yamagata, Hokkaidō
Rosa rugosa Hokkaidō, Aomori 2), 3)
Elaeagnus multiflora Aomori 4)
Vaccinium oldhamii Fukushima, Nagano, Nara 5), 6), 7)
Actinidia arguta 13.1 10.6 Fukushima, Kagawa, Yamagata
A. polygama 1.9 Akita
A. rufa Miyazaki 8)
Lonicera caerulea 60.0 90.2 Hokkaidō, Aomori

Production data were drawn from the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (

Information on other plants was based on the following websites: 1), 2),su-1591/, 3), 4), 5), 6), 7), 8)

As these native species have a niche market, both their area and quantity of production are limited, and production has fluctuated. Except for Vitis coignetiae and Lonicera caerulea, the commercial cultivation of these native plants is extremely limited, possibly with as few as half a dozen growers at the fewest.

Although species of Pinus, Amelanchier, Cornus, Crataegus, and Sorbus are cultivated in other parts of the world, Japanese species are not utilized. They may have been eaten by indigenous people, but archaeological or ethnological evidence is lacking. The rarity of Crataegus and Sorbus (except for S. commixta) in Honshū and further south may be a reason. Seed of Pinus has been imported from Korea since the Middle Ages (von Verschuer 2006). However, there is no evidence for the utilization of Japanese species. Only imported seeds might have been consumed, and historical references (e.g., Minamoto 930s) might have been nothing more than citations from the Chinese literature. Although Pinus is common in the Japanese flora, P. koraiensis, which is the main edible species, is rare and may have been neither cultivated nor collected in the wild.

Future conservation

Horticultural and breeding studies have included Japanese wild species of Vitis, Malus, Pyrus, and Actinidia, which are congeneric with major fruit tree species, along with other wild species (e.g., Janick and Moore 1996, Moore and Ballington 1990). However, the conservation of these wild species, both in situ and ex situ, is inadequate: 84 taxa in Table 2 are nominated in the Japanese National Red List (Ministry of Environment of Japan 2012), including two species of Vitis (V. amurensis and V. romanetii), two of Malus (M. hupehensis and M. spontanea), and two of Pyrus (P. calleryana and P. ussuriensis). The Red List only contains threatened plants and has no legal standing for the prohibition of picking and selling. Ex situ conservation is also precarious. Until recently, the NIAS Genebank, which is the Japanese national genebank for agricultural crops, has held few or no germplasm accessions of these native species. Other facilities such as botanical gardens are in a similar situation. To address this lack, extensive explorations have been performed for Pyrus (Iketani et al. 2005, 2006, 2008, Iketani and Mase 2009), Malus (Iketani et al. 2006, 2007, 2008, Iketani and Mase 2009, 2013, 2016), and Vitis (Iketani et al. 2014) in the past 10 years.

Recent advances in molecular population genetics have revealed that a species can be genetically differentiated when a genetic barrier among subpopulations exists. Therefore, a widely distributed species is likely to be differentiated where geographical barriers to gene flow, such as seas or high mountains, intervene, unless long-distance dispersal is possible. For example, Pyrus ussuriensis (sensu lato) is widely distributed in northeastern China, eastern Russia (Amur to Primorsky), the Korean Peninsula, and central and northern Honshū. Iketani et al. (2010a, 2012) revealed that native populations on the Asian continent, in central Honshū, and in northern Honshū are highly differentiated. Thus, it will be necessary to evaluate genetic differentiation within taxa to maximize the collection of genetic diversity.

Conservation of minor plants is more problematic, especially for the purpose of agricultural genetic resources. Their economic importance is limited. Basic information such as past ethnological utilization is necessary, as well as research for agricultural and industrial utilization. For example, Matsushima et al. (2013) newly reported several edible uses of plants on the basis of interviews in a mountain village in central Honshū. For the conservation of these species, several explorations have been performed (Iketani et al. 2010b, Ito 2011, 2012, Ito and Sugawara 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010). The collected germplasm is conserved in NIAS Genebank (, along with the abovementioned Pyrus, Malus, and Vitis germplasm.

Preservation of collected germplasm also has difficulty because most of fruit trees have to be stored in the form of living plants. As it costs enormously, only national or international organizations have been capable to preserve fruit tree genetic resources. However, smaller organizations such as local governments and communities, private companies, non-governmental organizations and farmers could have a role (Frese et al. 2014, Maxted et al. 2011). We have to seek a new way that enables their participation. In Japan, on farm conservation of local vegetables can be cited as examples (Nishikawa 2012). Similar approaches in minor fruits and local fruit landraces could be possible by combining various potential benefits of germplasm collections such as local culture, education and tourism, not only economic ones.


I thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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