What is the oldest bonsai? 10 of the oldest in the world and location

Bonsai trees may not be easy to care for, but can last for centuries if cared for properly. Although each species determines the best way to care for it, some of the oldest bonsai trees date back 1,000 years. Their care has been passed down from generation to generation.

A superb Bonsai Ficus. Photo: @bonsaiempire
Source: Twitter

Bonsai trees are the Japanese version of the traditional Chinese art of Penjing or Penzai. Both, however, have their differences. The Penjing uses traditional techniques to produce pure natural landscapes in small pots that mimic the exquisite shapes of real landscapes. On the other hand, the Japanese grow small trees that mimic the shape of real life ones.

What are the oldest bonsai?

In the 6th century, Japanese students visited mainland China to study Penjing types and returned with many Chinese ideas and products, including container plantings. Over time, these container plantings began to appear in Japanese writings and figurative art. So what are the common types of bonsai trees? Here are some of the older ones:

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1. Chabo-Hiba Cypress

oldest Bonsai tree
Omiya Bonsai Chabohiba Cypress. Photo: @ZenVita_Kyoto
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 175-275 years old
  • Location: Cambridge, MA, USA

Chabo–Hiba is one of 36 plants in the Arnold Arboretum Bonsai and Penjing Collection. Larz Anderson, the United States Ambassador to Japan at the time, introduced different species of trees to the United States in 1913. Among the plants are six Chabo-Hiba trees that are 175 to 275 years old, and consequently , they are recognized as the oldest bonsai tree available in America.

2. Hinoki Trees

oldest Bonsai tree
An adult “Little John” Hinoki Cypress nursery stock. Photo: @slashBonsai
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 232 years
  • Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Hinoki trees have spent more than two centuries in the same pot. They are found at the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University, as part of the Lars Anderson Bonsai Collection. The Hinoki tree is one of the massive types whose bushes require movement as part of its upkeep and care. Therefore, having one alive for so long is an exceptional achievement.

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3. Yamaki Pine

oldest Bonsai tree
This Yamaki pine is a species of bonsai that survived the bombing of Hiroshima. Photo: @Elizabeth_Ruler
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 390 years
  • Location: Washington D.C., United States

The true story of the 390-year-old bonsai tree was discovered in 2001. The Yamaki pine type resides in the United States National Arboretum. It was given to the United States by Masaru Yamaki in 1976 as a gift of 53 copies for his bicentenary. Yamaki is one of the bonsai trees that survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II.

4. Sandai Shogun no Matsu

oldest Bonsai tree
Sandai Shogun no Matsu. Photo: @lhksweet2
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 500 years
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan

The Sandai Shogun no Matsu is a five-needle pine. It is considered one of Japan’s national treasures. The tree is believed to be over 500 years old, which makes it expensive. It was named after Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, who obtained it when he was around 200 years old.

Since then, it has been passed down to the care of the emperors of Japan for over 500 years. Sandai Shogun no Matsu is currently on display in the collection of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

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5. Red pine bonsai

oldest Bonsai tree
Red pine. Photo: @tombyrd77
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 600 years
  • Location: Atami, Japan

The red pine is located at Akao Herb & Rose Garden and is considered the largest bonsai tree in the world. It measures over 16 feet high and 30 feet wide.

The size makes it not a typical type but still qualifies in this category to be contained in a pot. Due to its massive size, a support had to be added to support one of its main branches.

6. Shimpaku Juniper

oldest Bonsai tree
A Shohin Shimpaku juniper sulphide with cleaned, trimmed and deadwood lime. Photo: @bonsaimatsu
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 700 years
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan

It is located in the Mansei-en nursery, owned by the Kato family. Shimpaku Japanese Juniper is a needled dioecious conifer. It is naturally irregular vase-shaped and it was formed to have a coiled trunk and branches.

The Shimpaku has attractive foliage all year round and its dark green needles are soft to the touch. As a result, it is among the easiest to grow.

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7. Unnamed Bonsai at ShunkaEn

How much does a centenary bonsai cost?
800-year-old tree in Shunka-en by Kunio Kobayashi. Photo: @sanmi971
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 800 years
  • Location: Tokyo, Japan.

This species is one of the largest of the genus placed in Tokyo, Japan. Kunio Kobayashi, bonsai master for more than 30 years, is the owner. He practiced art and opened the Shunkaen Bonsai Museum in 2002 to spread Japanese culture.

8. Unnamed Bonsai at ShunkaEn

How long can a bonsai survive?
A bonsai on display at Shunkaen. Photo: @VivieVOrned
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 800 years
  • Location: Omiya

It is one of the most expensive bonsai trees in the world and one of two trees owned by Kunio Kobayashi. Interestingly, Kunio has won Japan’s prestigious Prime Minister’s Award four times because he came up with the idea to open the Shunkae Museum in 2002.

9. Juniper Bonsai

How long can a bonsai survive?
An Itoigawa juniper bonsai belonging to the late Ian Stewardson. Photo: @b4me_com
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 1000 years
  • Location: Omiya, Japan

The juniper is located in the Mansei-en nursery. The Kato family owns the nursery, also known as the Sacred Bonsai Ground. The tree was harvested from the wild in Japan and tamed in the nursery.

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Mansei-en is one of the six gardens that make up the Omiya Bonsai Village. It is the oldest garden located in the village and has belonged to the Kato family since the 19th century. Nevertheless, it officially opened to the public in 1925.

10. Ficus Bonsai

oldest Bonsai tree
This Ficus Bonsai would be over 1000 years old. Photo: @EvanKirstel
Source: Twitter
  • Age: 1000+ years
  • Location: Parabiago

The Ficus is considered the oldest existing in the world, with more than 1000 years of existence. It is found in the Crespi Museum in Italy. Luigi Crespi, the founder of the Crespi Museum, became its owner in 1986 after ten years of failed property concessions. He and Alberto Lavazza are the main guardians of the tree.

Prior to this, the tree was in the care of Chinese masters, and during its early years in Italy it was shaped by Japanese bonsai master Shotaro Kawahara. The Crespi Museum was founded in 1991, and the Ficus was placed in a glass pagoda and became the centerpiece of the museum.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How old can bonsai be? It can easily live to over 100 years in the right conditions. Others can even live for centuries up to a thousand years!
  2. How much does a centenary bonsai cost? Prices vary widely from store to store and country to country.
  3. What is special about a bonsai? Trees have long been respected in the ancient art of Feng Shui for their ability to draw vital energies into a room, willingly sharing them with all who pass through them.
  4. Are bonsai trees good for indoors? Trees should be placed outdoors, where they are exposed to the four natural seasons, just like normal trees.
  5. How often do you water a bonsai? About once a week (when the topsoil seems completely dry), submerge the entire plant in a bucket or basin of water.
  6. Should I mist my bonsai? Yes, a houseplant can benefit from misting because heating and air conditioning lower humidity levels to moon surface conditions in your home.

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The oldest bonsai trees have stood the test of time and are admired throughout records to symbolize care and dedication. Some of them survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. Others are the result of generations of hard work and patience.

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