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Japanese Black Pine

Pinus thunbergii

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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Pinus thunbergii
SD - LINEAGE 11371
Dr. Ernest Henry Wilson, Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA, United States
From a cultivated plant not of known wild origin
Japanese Black Pine

Grown from seed acquired by famed Arboretum plant collector Ernest Henry Wilson over a century ago from the Yokohama Nursery Company, this tree may be compared with others on Peters Hill from the same accession. They reveal the variety of forms, from curving to climbing, that this delightful evergreen can develop.

Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) is native to the coastal areas of Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, Japan as well as parts of South Korea, where it sometimes develops a windswept habit. Bonsai artists have long prized the tree for its ability to create a contorted form and have used it for their designs for centuries, and it was one of the most frequently painted trees in the Edo Period.

In the Forest Flora of Japan, a work that summarizes his observations of the Japanese flora made during his 1892 trip to the country, Charles Sargent describes P. thunbergii as a good timber tree that will grow on poor land that would not support any other plantations. He further observes that it “is one of the most picturesque of Pines, with a broad head of stout contorted somewhat pendulous branches, often growing to a height of eighty feet, and producing trunks three feet through.”

Although the conservation status of the Japanese black pine is listed as of “Least Concern” in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is vulnerable to attack by the pine wilt nematode (Busaphelenchus xylophilus) which was introduced from to Asia from North America in the early twentieth century.

This Japanese black pine was grown from seed accessioned in 1919. Arboretum collector Ernest Henry Wilson acquired it in Japan at the very end of his 1917-1919 expedition. Wilson introduced many horticulturally valuable plants into cultivation, while creating enduring cultural links to nurseries, gardeners, and botanists across Asia.

The contorted form of the tree is well exemplified by this specimen with its twisted, elegant trunk. Notice how the irregular form looks windswept like examples in its native habitat. The dark gray bark reveals brown scales that break into irregular, rough scaly plates.


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

  • 1
    The stem of this tree has naturally formed a deep curve best visible from under its canopy. Rosetta Elkin
  • 2
    Young cones are rosy-pink color in this species. Danny Schissler
  • 3
    The scaly reddish-brown bark is home to lichens and moss. William (Ned) Friedman
  • 4
    A closeup of the leaves reveals the variation in color. William (Ned) Friedman
  • 5
    Mature cones. William (Ned) Friedman

About Our Collection

Fun Facts

  • This Japanese black pine is small and sinuous. Compare it with two of its siblings (accessions 11371*M and 11371*J) further down Peters Hill Road, grown from the same seed lot. They are taller and exhibit a more upright form common to many Japanese black pines.

  • In Japanese, this tree is called kuromatsu. They have been a popular subject for ink painting in Japanese art for hundreds of years.

  • Two Japanese black pines grown from seed (accessions 16592*D and 16592*E) collected by Charles Sargent in Japan in 1892, grow near accession 11371*O.

  • In November 2022, Japanese black pine was designated ‘Likely Invasive’ and added to the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant List. The tree will no longer be sold in the state after December 31, 2025.


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

Living Specimens

Plant ID Accession Date Received As Origin Source