National Bonsai & Penjing Museum
Photo by PoPville flickr user Andrei Sinioukov

From a press release:

“The centennial of the birth of John Naka, one of the fathers of American bonsai, will be celebrated with a tribute and birthday cake at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the U.S. National Arboretum on Aug. 16, at 2 p.m. Naka (1914-2004) would have turned 100 on this date. The event is free and open to the public.

“American horticulturist, teacher and author John Naka was a bonsai master who made significant contributions to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum collection and to the art of bonsai,” said Museum curator Jack Sustic. His forest planting, “Goshin,” is one of the most recognizable bonsai in the world; it features 11 juniper trees representing his grandchildren. “The Museum honors Naka every day by displaying a diverse collection of bonsai by North American artists in its John Y. Naka North American Pavilion,” added Sustic.

The event will feature videos and photos of Naka at work, remarks by the Museum’s assistant curator Aarin Packard, a display of Naka’s bonsai from the Museum’s permanent collection, and birthday cake.

During this centennial month of Naka’s birth, the Museum invites visitors to celebrate on social media, using the hashtag “#JohnNaka100” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to document their visits to the Museum’s John Naka North American Pavilion. A virtual birthday card for Naka is available to subscribers of the Museum’s email newsletters until August 16. Sign up here.

Arboretum is located at 3501 New York Avenue NE”


“Dear PoPville,

I haven’t seen or heard anything about the annual Gingko tree spraying to reduce fruit on female trees. Looks now like it’s too late as the trees have already pollinated. Do you know why the city did not spray this year?”

Ed. Note: Last year at the end of April DDOT issues a press release saying they would spray the trees “to prevent the notoriously unpleasant odor of female ginkgo fruit”. No such press release was issued this year. However on the DDOT Gingko tree page they say “Today, Urban Forestry Administration sprays these trees with a mild pesticide each spring to halt fruit development.”

A call to DDOT reveals that they don’t actually spray until the trees start to bud before the fruit is produced – and when budding starts they will again spray this year.

Sadly, despite spraying you can always count on a certain amount of stink every year…so you can also learn how to request a tree be removed here.


“Dear PoPville,

On April 28, 2014, DC planted a new street tree in between the curb and sidewalk in front of my house near H Street. The label on the tree identifies it as a Kentucky Coffeetree. According to the USDA plant guide, Kentucky Coffeetree “leaves, seeds and pulp are poisononous and toxic to livestock, humans, and pets.” The report also notes that “Cattle have reportedly died after drinking from pools of water contaminated by fallen leaves and seeds from the tree.”

I do not want a poisonous and toxic tree in front of my house or in my neighborhood. I have a newborn child and a dog. Many of my neighbors have small children and pets as well. Even with a healthy dose of cynicism towards DC resident services, it still astounds me that DC would plant a poisonous tree.

Additionally, this tree planting is just the latest in a 2 year saga to have a tree planted in front of my house. In Spring 2012, DC dug up a dead tree in the same location and replaced with another tree that was already dead when it was planted. In October 2012, I filed a request via 311 notifying DC that it removed a tree and replaced it with another dead tree. I asked that the new dead tree be replaced. Because I did not receive a response and 311 showed that my request was responded to, I filed a second 311 request in May 2013, again requesting that the new dead tree be replaced. In September 2013, DC finally removed the dead tree during a project to expand tree planting sites along sidewalks. However, DC did not replace the tree until yesterday, and now I learn that the new tree is toxic to humans and pets.

Also of note, there’s a good chance the new tree is dead. It looks like a barren twig stuck in the ground. I am by no means a tree expert, but I would think that if the tree was alive it would at least have some budding leaves (or any sign of life) by late April.

For 2 years I have tried to get DC to plant a tree in front of my house. Now I have a tree that either poses a danger to my and my neighbors’ children and pets or is already dead (or possibly both toxic and dead).

At this point I would gladly pay for a new tree myself, but it is illegal to plant trees on city property and it would likely be difficult to dig up the current tree. I’m curious if anyone else has noticed DC planting poisonous trees or if anyone has any advice on dealing with this issue besides 311 and the ANC rep (both already tried). Thanks!”