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Bonsai trees worth thousands ‘mysteriously’ returned to Washington museum days after theft

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Less than three days after they were stolen, two valuable bonsai trees were returned to a museum in Washington.

The bonsai trees were “mysteriously” returned to the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington, the museum said. Security guards discovered the trees sitting together on the road leading up to the museum around 11 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11. Museum officials estimated their value at thousands of dollars.

“Our curators are conducting a thorough conditions report on the bonsai right now. We are deeply grateful for their return,” Kathy McCabe, executive director told CNN on Wednesday.

Two people wearing hooded sweatshirts were seen slinking into a secure exhibit in surveillance video captured early on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The museum staff hoped that the trees would be returned quickly, as they would not have survived for long without someone’s expert care.

Museum curator Aarin Packard said the trees were in “fairly good shape” after examining the pair, he said in a statement.

“The Silverberry suffered some damage,” Packard said in a statement. “It has some broken branches, probably due to improper transportation and handling, but both bonsai trees and their pots appear to be intact, which means they can return to being on public display.”

One of the trees is a Japanese Black Pine that was grown from a seed more than 70 years ago, the museum said. Japanese American Juzaburo Furuzawa grew the tree in a tin can while he was incarcerated in an internment camp during World War II.

The other plant is a Silverberry, which began training as a bonsai in 1946. It was created by a female bonsai artist named Kiyoko Hatanaka, a pioneer of her time.

After the trees were further inspected, they were returned to the exhibit Wednesday afternoon.

“We are deeply grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from the community and from the media who raised awareness of the bonsai’s disappearance,” McCabe said.

McCabe said that if the trees were returned, no questions would be asked.

No one knows who brought the bonsai back or why they were stolen, museum officials said. Police responded to the scene when the trees were returned.

The Japanese Black Pine is set to be the centerpiece of a special exhibition on May 8, called “World War Bonsai: Remembrance & Resilience.”

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