Photo/IllutrationA collection of pressed flowers and leaves that are about 300 years old, Japan’s oldest known specimens (Provided by the Suwa City Museum)

SUWA, Nagano Prefecture--Pressed flowers and leaves at a museum here have been dated to have been in bloom about 300 years ago, making them the oldest known specimens in Japan.

The National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo found that some of the 25 samples, such as cherry, plum, horse chestnut, pine and camphor trees, were collected between 1719 and 1724.

They predated specimens of pressed leaves taken by prominent German doctor and botanist Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) in Japan by 100 years.

The samples were collected during the mid-Edo Period (1603-1867) by Shibue Tamiemon Hisatomo, who served the feudal lord of the Takashima Domain, the present-day Suwa.

They were donated by Shibue's descendants to the Suwa City Museum in October.

Museum officials said 13 of the samples were collected in the Kansai region and none in the Suwa area.

“The flowers and leaves were apparently collected when Shibue traveled to faraway regions on domain missions,” an official said.

Siebold, who lived in Nagasaki and helped spread knowledge of Western medicine in Japan, brought home a number of pressed leaves when he returned to Germany.