Pinus parviflora 'Koko no e' / Koko no e Japanese white pine

Pinus parviflora 'Koko no e' is a relatively slow-growing, upright, tree form of Japanese white pine with short, blue-green needles that grow with a slight twist and radiate from the stems. After 10 years of growth, a mature specimen will measure 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 18 inches (45 cm) wide, an annual growth rate of 4 to 6 inches (10 - 15 cm).

Because of its short needles, 'Koko no e' is a favorite of bonsai enthusiasts. Most nursery material has been heavily pruned and candled; a practice that must be continued by home gardeners who wish to maintain its dwarf, compact structure.

This cultivar originated in Japan long ago. Its first mention in western botanical literature was in the mid-1970s in one of American bonsai master, Bill Valvanis' bonsai journals.

Pinus parviflora 'Koko no e' — a specimen in Dawes arboretum, Newark, Ohio. This plant has likely never been pruned, and demonstrates the result if allowed to grow "free range."
Photo by Steve Duggins



This is an easy to confuse Japanese cultivar name. Normally the word "no" is a possessive indicating whatever follows belongs to what proceeds it. So intuitively, it would appear it should be written Pinus parviflora 'Koko no e'. However, in this unusual case. Kokonoe is actually an entire word in Japanese and it means The Imperial Palace or The Court. Breaking the name into Koko no and e makes little sense in Japanese. So I believe the correct name is best written as Pinus parviflora 'Kokonoe'.

Maxwell Cohn

thank you for your input, Dennis. Naming, translating, and getting the botanical world to accept Japanese cultivar names is a particular source of frustration. Somebody should write a book and present it to the board of the I.C.B.N.

Oddly, nobody has ever been able to present a source of all of the weird spacing, not to mention the dashes they scatter, seemingly at random.

Dennis Groh

I do not pretend to be a Japanese Language master. I have visited the country numerous times over the last 40 years and have a "survival level" mastery of the language. But I do feel I have a deep understanding of Japanese culture and have read hundreds of books on their philosophy, gardens, and history. I also have several 40 year Japanese native friends who I can exchange e-mails with when something confusing requires explaining. I have also visited several botanic gardens in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hakone. In those gardens, I have NEVER seen the use of hyphens between words, only spaces. I suspect some non-Japanese people have used the hyphens/dashes as a way of keeping the letters grouped/separated properly into words. If so, that is likely a "crutch" and not a convention used by the Japanese in their plant label signage. I base that opinion on all I have been able to see in my many visits around the country.

Maxwell Cohn

unfortunately nomenclature issues like this are rarely a question of proficiency of language. A few years ago I died on a hill regarding Picea glauca 'Senic Shores' ... this is how it was written on the labels that were sent out to various grafters. The purists insisted that the misspelling must stand that way forever because that's how it was first published. Common sense doesn't apply. Yes; it's frustrating.

Web Editor

Unfortunately, this nonsense of enforcing initial spelling errors is not just with botanical nomenclature. My husband had a horse that he bought as a two year old, registered name 'Playboy's Paradigm'. But when the breeder registered the colt, he misspelled it as 'Playboy's Paradign'. Ron tried and tried to get the regulatory body to allow him to correct the misspelling, to no success. And to make it worse, the announcer would alway mispronounce it as 'Playboy's Paradignee'.

Dennis Groh

I forgot to mention there is a Japanese publication titled "Book for Maples" by Masayoshi Yano. It goes into great detail about various maple cultivars. This book written and published in Japan and translated into English and Japanese does not use any hyphens in cultivar names. The book includes references to select cultivars from the 17th century to publishing date and the scholarship and research are impressive.