Here’s Why You Should Visit This 400-Year-Old Tree in Washington, DC

on November 13, 2013

This Bonsai Tree at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is Almost 400 Years Old

Not every day you get to meet someone – or something that’s been alive for over 100 years. Even less so, something that’s lived for almost 4 centuries, surviving generations, wars, and the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

If this compact little tree could talk, what a story it would tell. Currently in Washington, DC, it’s been “in training” as a bonsai since 1625, and cared for by many generations of the same family, until it was donated to The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in 1976. A total of 53 trees were donated by Japan as a gift to the United States for the bicentennial, with many more added throughout the years (“penjing” are trees trained in a similar tradition but originating from China, where the practice actually precedes the method in Japan).

It’s part of a collection of over 150 trees at The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, housed at The United States National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave NE, Washington DC). Situated toward the outskirts of the city, the Arboretum is like an oasis in the city, an off-the-beaten-path spot to recharge away from the crowds at the national monuments. Grounds admission is free, and there is plenty to see and experience in all seasons.

Many of the Bonsai at the museum are over 100 years old, and are divided into four pavilions: Japanese, Chinese, North American and International. The International Pavilion includes a greenhouse for tropical species. You’ll also find an impressive miniature juniper forest in the North American Pavilion. And, one of the most famous bonsai in the world, Goshin.

The trees are living art, so they change overtime. Some of them even have flowers and fruits, or change color in the fall.

  • Enjoy with: Friends, the kids and/or the parents, or for a stroll with your sweetheart.
  • Cost: Free!
  • Hours: The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is open Friday through Monday (except holidays) from 10am to 4pm. The United States Arboretum is open Friday through Monday 8am to 5pm.
  • Visitor tips: If visiting the Arboretum, be prepared to do a lot of walking! (you can also drive around part of the grounds).

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