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8 Oldest Bonsai Trees in the World

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Dating back to the 6th century, bonsai is an ancient Japanese practice of growing tiny trees in containers. Imperial embassy officers and Buddhist students would travel to China during this time and bring back penjing container plantings (the ancient art depicting artistically formed trees and landscapes in miniature).

A bonsai art hallmark is that a tree can survive many years and die as a family heirloom with proper care. Here is the list of the world’s seven oldest bonsai trees and their fascinating histories.

8. Hinoki Cypress

Hinoki CypressAge: 232 Years old

Location: Boston, MA, USA

This oldest Bonsai tree alive is 232 Years Old and is located in Boston, MA, USA. This little bonsai tree has been in the same container for about two centuries. Currently, it is the oldest Bonsai in the U.S. 

It’s the crown gem of the Lars Anderson Bonsai Collection, and it’s on display at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. One of the fascinating aspects of the world’s oldest bonsai tree is that it necessitates movement for upkeep and care. Keeping one alive for such a long time is quite an achievement.

7. Chabo-Hiba Cypresses

Chabo-Hiba CypressesAge: 150 – 275 Years Old

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

The Chabo-Hiba Cypresses are part of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum’s Larz Anderson Collection of Japanese Dwarfed Trees. Anderson, who served as a Japanese ambassador, returned to the United States in 1913 with a vast collection of bonsai trees. 

However, his widow Isabel Anderson contributed 30 plants to the Arnold Arboretum after his death, with the rest of the trees being added after Isabel’s death in 1949. The collection’s crown jewels are the six Chabo-Hiba (hinoki cypress) trees, 150 to 275 years old. These are the oldest still-living bonsai trees in the United States.

6. Yamaki Pine

Yamaki PineAge: 392 Years Old

Location: Washington D.C., USA

The Yamaki Pine tree is one of the most popular bonsai trees globally in recent years, thanks to discovering its actual history in 2001. The bonsai tree has been on display in the United States National Arboretum since 1976 as part of Masaru Yamaki’s 53-specimen donation for the country’s bicentennial. Besides, it is a survivor of the atomic bomb unleashed on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. 

The National Arboretum was oblivious of its history until two of Yamaki’s grandkids checked on the bonsai tree in 2001. Yamaki’s grandkids provided the museum details about the tree, including news footage recorded at the Yamaki Nursery after the blast; the video showed the tree intact in the background. The National Arboretum paid tribute to the Yamaki’s history in 2015 as it was the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima blast.

5. Sandai Shogun no Matsu

Sandai Shogun no MatsuAge: 500 Years Old

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Sandai Shogun no Matsu, a five-needle pine tree, is one of Japan’s National Treasures. The bonsai is named after Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu and is considered to be around 500 years old. Iemitsu acquired the tree when it was about 200 years old. 

Afterward, the bonsai was passed down from one emperor to the next. Also, Japan’s emperors took care of the Sandai Shogun no Matsu for more than 500 years. It is now exhibited in the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

4. Red Pine Bonsai

Red Pine BonsaiAge: 600 Years Old

Location: Atami, Japan

The red pine bonsai is located at the Akao Herb & Rose Garden. Red Pine is one of the oldest bonsai trees alive in the world and also the world’s most giant bonsai. The tree is around 16 feet tall and over 30 feet wide, and despite its unusual size for a bonsai, the red pine qualifies as a bonsai because it is contained in what is essentially a container. Also, the tree is large and needs support to hold up one of its main branches.

3. Bonsai Trees at Shunkaen Nursery

Bonsai Trees at Shunkaen NurseryAge: 800 Years Old

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Kunio Kobayashi holds and manages the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum, home to two of the world’s oldest bonsai trees. Both trees are estimated to be over 800 years old.

Kunio Kobayashi is a bonsai master with more than 30 years of experience. In 2002, Kobayashi established the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum to promote Japanese culture, especially bonsai art, and display Kunio’s and his trainees’ work.

2. Juniper Bonsai Tree

Juniper Bonsai TreeAge: 1000 Years Old

Location: Omiya, Japan

The Kato family holds the Mansei-en bonsai nursery, which has a 1,000 years old Juniper bonsai tree. The Juniper tree was over 1,000 years old and was discovered in the wilds of Japan.  

Mansei-en is one of the Omiya Bonsai Village’s six noteworthy bonsai gardens; it is the village’s oldest garden since the 19th century. The Kato family owned the garden and opened it publicly in 1925. Several antique bonsai trees are in the park, including a 700-year-old Shimpaku Juniper tree.

1. Ficus Bonsai Tree

Ficus Bonsai TreeAge: 1000+ Years Old

Location: Parabiago, Italy

The Ficus retusa Linn was discovered in Italy’s Crespi Bonsai Museum. It is the world’s oldest living bonsai tree, with an estimated age of thousand years. The proprietor of the Crespi Bonsai Museum, Luigi Crespi, attempted for ten years to get ownership of the bonsai until finally succeeding in 1986.

Chinese professionals have already searched for and sculpted the bonsai. Shotaro Kawahara, a Japanese bonsai artist, fashioned it during its early years in Italy. Alberto Lavazza and Crespi have been caring for this bonsai tree since then. After the Crespi Bonsai Museum opened in 1991, the bonsai was put in a glass pagoda and became the museum’s highlight.

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