In 1970, artist Ken Sugimoto discovered this Sierra juniper in the mountains of the same name. Centuries old, the tree had gradually died back until it consisted of a mostly dead trunk with a single vein of live tissue supporting a few low branches. The artist removed the dead upper portion of the tree and collected the lower portion to train as bonsai.
Removed from its desert home to a cooler, foggy coastal environment, the tree’s foliage became unattractively long and stringy. The artist grafted young, potted Chinese junipers (called “scions”) to the branch tips of the larger tree. After the grafts “took”, he removed the lower portions of the scions and the original foliage of Sierra juniper to yield a bonsai with the best features of both.