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Compact Hinoki Cypress

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Chabo-hiba’

Accession Number
The alpha-numeric value assigned to a plant when it is added to the living collection as a way of identifying it.
Accession Date
The year the plant’s accession number was assigned.
Common Name
The non-scientific name for the plant.
Scientific Name
The scientific name describes the species of an organism. The first word is the plant's scientific genus and the second is the specific epithet. This two-word binomial is sometimes followed by other taxonomic descriptors, including subspecies (denoted by "ssp."), variety (denoted by "var."), form (denoted by "f." or "forma"), and cultivar (denoted by single quotation marks).
Plant Family
The family to which the plant belongs.
Propagation Material
The first part (material code) describes the material used to create the plant. The most common codes are "SD" (seed), "EX" (existing plant), "PT" (plant), "CT" (cutting), "SC" (scion), "SG" (seedling), and "GR" (graft). The second part describes the lineage the plant is derived from. The last part describes the year of propagation.
Collection Data
The first part indicates provenance (place or source of origin) using a letter code ("W" = wild, "G" = garden, "Z" = indirect wild, "U" = uncertain). The second part lists the plant source. For wild-collected material, the collector, collection number, and country are given.
The location of the plant on the landscape.
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Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Chabo-hiba’
PT - LINEAGE 877-37 - 1937
Compact Hinoki Cypress

At nearly three centuries old, this compact cypress was gifted to the Arnold Arboretum in 1937.

Among the plants growing at the Arnold Arboretum, few embody the spirit of horticultural collaboration and cultural exchange as well as this nearly 300-year-old compact potted cypress.  

The story of this tree’s arrival at the Arboretum begins with a wealthy American plant lover named Larz Anderson. In 1913, Anderson, a Harvard College graduate who had previously served as a diplomat in the Foreign Service in Europe, reached the end of his appointment as “Ambassador extraordinary” to Japan. During his post, Anderson had developed a keen interest in Japanese horticulture, writing fondly of his experiences with miniaturized trees in the gardens of the villages of Yokohama alongside his wife, Isabel: About us were dwarf trees of fantastic shape and stunted plum in fragrant bloom, white and pink, and gnarled trees hundreds of years old with branches blossoming out of seemingly dead trunks in pots of beautiful form and color.”  

So taken was Anderson with these meticulously trained miniature trees that he and Isabel purchased at least forty of them from the Yokohama Nursery Company, a reputable distributor known to have supplied many of the earliest dwarf trees to arrive in Europe and the United States from the newly opened ports of Japan.  

Among the selection was this Chabo-hiba (accession 877-37*A), one of several of this cultivar of hinoki cypress purchased by the Andersons. Properly termed hachi-no-ki (“potted tree”), the rugged trunks and compact scaled foliage of these trees were typically trained in a conical shape resembling the image of a distant Mount Fuji. By the time of its lengthy journey to the United States, this tree had endured nearly two centuries of training by Japanese masters. For the next 24 years, the imported collection graced the terraces of Anderson’s estate in Brookline, Massachusetts, under the care of the gardening staff and, later, a Japanese scholar named Rainosuke Yori Awano 

With the passing of Larz and Isabel in 1937 and 1948, respectively, 39 of the Anderson trees were donated to the Arnold Arboretum along with the funds to create a building for the display and storage of the collection. For the next half century, this Chabo-hiba and the rest of the plants were cared for diligently by Arboretum staff members, including Connie Derderian, who helped revitalize the collection in 1969, and Peter Del Tredici (now senior research scientist emeritus) who served as her understudy.  

Today, this Chabo-hiba endures (along with four others of its kind) among the 36 plants that make up the Arnold Arboretum Bonsai and Penjing Collectionone of the oldest formal collections in North America. The collection is curated by director of operations Stephen Schneider and rigorously maintained by New England Bonsai Garden’s resident bonsai master Jun Imabayashi and a team of Arboretum horticultural staff. Among the plants in the collection, the Chabo-hiba require the most intensive treatment, involving meticulous pinching and pruning to preserve the tight, horizontal foliage pads and contorted branches. Today, these striking dwarf trees—and the legacy of horticultural care they representserve as an enduring connection to Japan’s cultural and social past.  

Click here to read a transcript of the audio segment below.

Steve Schneider is the Arboretum’s Director of Operations and Public Engagement. He also curates the bonsai and penjing trees. Listen below to hear about goals for the collection and the challenges of raising these trees.

Viewing this plant in-person? Look for these defining characteristics:

  • 1
    Dense pads of scale-like leaves of Hinoki Cypress
    Dense pads of scale-like leaves. Kyle Port
  • 2
    Clusters of woody, globose cones of Compact Hinoki Cypress
    Clusters of woody, globose cones. Kyle Port
  • 3
    Peeling red-brown bark of Compact Cypress
    Peeling red-brown bark. Kyle Port
  • 4
    Pyramidal form of mature specimen of Compact Hinoki Cypress.
    Pyramidal form of mature specimen. Kyle Port

About Our Collection

Fun Facts

  • Chabo-hiba was the most common type of dwarf tree being exported from Japan to Europe and North America at the turn of the century. Many specimens were hundreds of years old and had previously graced temples throughout Japan.

  • The ‘Chabo-hiba in the Anderson collection embody the traditional training method of ha-chi-no-ki (“tree in pot”), which contrasts with the more modern, naturalistic method of bon sai (“plant in pot”) that gained popularity through Japan at the end of the 19th century.

  • The Larz Anderson collection has been featured multiple times at the New England Spring Flower Show, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, and in multiple articles and publications.

  • In 1998, the noted English bonsai expert Colin Lewis helped to revitalize the collection and reestablish the traditional form and character of the Arboretum’s ‘Chabohiba specimens.


Living Specimens
Specimens Dead or Removed
First Addition
Most Recent Addition
Tallest Specimen

Living Specimens

Plant ID Accession Date Received As Origin Source

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