Stolen bonsai trees ‘mysteriously returned’ to Federal Way museum

Stolen bonsai trees ‘mysteriously returned’ to Federal Way museum
Left: Japanese black pine. Right: Silverberry. (Pacific Bonsai Museum)

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Two stolen bonsai trees have been “mysteriously returned,” according to staff at the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way.

The executive director with the museum tells KIRO 7 News that the pair of trees reappeared late Tuesday night. A security guard spotted the trees in the middle of the road leading up to the museum.

There was concern over the pair of bonsai trees given their age, and the history behind them. One of the trees, a Japanese black pine, was grown by a Japanese-American man in an internment camp during World War II. While many bonsai trees take decades to cultivate and design, this particular tree was grown in a tin can from seeds while the man was held.

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That particular tree was set to become the centerpiece of an upcoming exhibit to commemorate the ending of the war titled ‘World War Bonsai: Remembrance & Resilience.’

“The Silverberry suffered some damage,” said museum curator Aarin Packard, referring to the other tree. “It has some broken branches, probably due to improper transportation and handling, but both bonsai trees and their pots appear to be intact.”

It’s not the first time someone has stolen a tree from the museum. Years ago, a similar theft took place. That tree was returned after they announced a “no questions asked” policy if it was returned. However, it sustained damage and took several years for the tree to be at a point where it could be put on display.

This time, Packard says, they should be able to return the trees to display.

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community and from the media who raised awareness of the bonsais’ disappearance,” said Pacific Bonsai Museum Executive Director Kathy McCabe.