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The National Arboretum in Washington is home to a very unique tree
-- a 390-year old bonsai tree that survived an atomic bomb. Equally as fascinating is that little was known about the tree for nearly 25 years!
The tree, a Japanese white pine planted in 1625, was donated to the museum in 1976 by bonsai master Masaru Yamaki. It was included as one of a 53-specimen gift to the United States for their bicentennial. From then until 2001, hardly anything was known about the tree or its remarkable history. In March of 2001, two of Yamaki's grandsons arrived at the museum and wanted to see their grandfather's tree. The men hadn't seen the tree in person before, although they had heard stories and seen footage of the unharmed tree taken shortly after the bomb was dropped.
On August 6, 1945, when Little Boy was dropped over Hiroshima, the tree was in a nursery less than two miles from the site of the blast. The then 320-year old tree was pressed against a wall, which likely provided the necessary protection. All family members in the house also survived the blast, suffering lacerations from flying glass but no permanent injuries.
The tree is well cared for at the National Arboretum. The curator of the Bonsai and Penjing Museum, Jack Sustic, currently cares for the tree. He explained that "bonsai" refers to the way in which a tree is cared for, not a type of tree in and of itself. The tree is watered daily, routinely inspected for insects and rotated to ensure it receives adequate sun. The tree will soon have a new home in the soon-to-be renovated Japanese Pavilion!