A 390-year-old bonsai that survived the atomic bomb blast over Hiroshima during World War II resides at the National Arboretum's National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C., on July 22. The tiny Japanese white pine was first cultivated in 1625 and donated by bonsai master Masada Yamaki for America's 1976 bicentennial.
by Will Parson
August 04, 2015
At the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., a diminutive Japanese white pine tree rests unassumingly on an outdoor table, its vibrant green leaves belying its age. The 390-year-old tree, first cultivated in 1625, was a mere 320 years old when it survived the atomic blast that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. And the tree is gaining renown this week as it is honored to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bombing. As part of the permanent collection at the arboretum’s National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, it helps form a tiny flourishing forest.
The museum’s three pavilions, housing about 150 plants, are part of the 446 acres of lush fields, forests and gardens making up the arboretum. Home to one of the largest bonsai and penjing collections in North America, the museum was established in 1976, while the arboretum dates to 1927.
The arboretum’s research program in ornamental horticulture and plant exhibits draw more than 500,000 visitors each year, allowing the staff to showcase a repertoire of educational programs, workshops and demonstrations about horticulture, agriculture and forestry.
From left, a Japanese zelkova gifted from the All Japan Shohin Bonsai Association, a Japanese Zelkova gifted by Doris W. Froning, a trident maple gifted by Keizo Obuchi and cultivated since 1919, a musk maple gifted by William and Joan Clark and a trident maple gifted by Froning reside at the museum.
The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum got its start when Japanese bonsai enthusiasts in the Nippon Bonsai Association donated 53 bonsai and 6 viewing stones to the people of the United States for the country’s bicentennial.
Some of the museum’s trees have been cultivated for hundreds of years.
A privet gifted by Seiko Koizumi and has been cultivated since 1968.
A Chinese elm gifted by Yee-sun Wu and has been cultivated since 1956.
From left, a Chinese juniper was gifted from the All Japan Shohin Bonsai Association, a Japanese Zelkova was gifted by Keizo Obuchi, and an emperor plum was gifted from the All Japan Shohin Bonsai Association.
A Buddhist pine gifted by Yee-sun Wu has been cultivated since 1956.
A Chinese elm was gifted by Stanley Chinn.
A dwarf hinoki cypress has been cultivated since 1964 and was donated by Muriel R. Leeds.
A Chinese hackberry has been cultivated since 1946 and was donated by Shu-ying Lui.
A Japanese black pine was donated by Stanley Chinn.
A Japanese red pine gifted by the Imperial Household of Japan in 1976 has been cultivated since 1795.
Koinobori, or Japanese carp windsocks, fly above the National Arboretum's National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C., on July 22.
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Images and captions by Will Parson
About Will Parson - Will produces digital stories for the Chesapeake Bay Program. He studied ecology and evolution at University of California, San Diego. He reported on water and the environment as a graduate student at Ohio University's School of Visual Communication, and worked at newspapers in New England before landing in Maryland.