Bonsai Study Group Forum

Species Specific => White Pine Bonsai Discussion => Topic started by: JRob on April 07, 2010, 10:02 PM

Title: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: JRob on April 07, 2010, 10:02 PM
Good Evening All,

Is there a botanist out there?

While looking through my Kokufu 56 book (published 1982) I noticed that Pinus pentaphylla was used exclusively to refer to the Japanese 5 needle white pine. I only know then as Pinus parviflora. So now I am curious. The Gymnosperm Database I accessed on the net says the 5 needle Japanese White Pine has two varities parviflora and pentaphylla. Is this correct or has parviflora become the preferred name for the sake of clarity much the same way as thunbergii became the preferred over thunbergiana for the Japanese Black Pine.

Anybody know?

Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: John Kirby on April 08, 2010, 01:07 AM
P. parviflora is the correct nomenclature, pentaphylla has floated in Bonsai books or in describing putative hybrids. However, I think if you look at enough of the contemporary Kokufu books, you will see the same trees described as pentaphylla before and parviflora later. Isn't taxonomy fun? When I was taking Mammalogy in college, the Professor, Ken Geluso always liked to show E. Raymond Hall's Mammals of North America text which included at least dozens of species/sub species of Bears in North America based on any number of characteristics, the next Hall book that came out in the early 80's had only  the three North American species we now know (Black Bear- Ursus americana,  Brown Bear (aka Grizzly) Ursus arctos; and the Polar Bear Ursus maritimus), taxonomy frequently throws us curve balls based on folks initially describing variable individuals of a single species as different species, over times these things get corrected.
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: JRob on April 08, 2010, 05:40 AM
Thanks John,

I knew I could count on you.

Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: tanlu on November 02, 2010, 11:29 PM
I recommend this looooong and highly technical article entitled: "White Pines of Japan" if you are still interested in knowing the difference between Pinus Parviflora and Pentaphylla. (
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: John Kirby on November 03, 2010, 07:47 AM
I have seen this paper, it is interesting to see that even though there was a attempt to make P. Parviflora in to two separate subspecies, there has been no acceptance of this division by taxonomists. As I previoysly stated, folks frquently try to split a species based on minor characteristics, including incomplete isolation of populations along a gradient (altitude, north-south, etc). Once you see that the variation within the putative populations is at least as variable as between the groups, these proposed divisions disappear. John
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: William N. Valavanis on November 03, 2010, 08:30 AM
"Pinus Parviflora Complex"

The classification of pines with five needles per fascicle has been discussed in length and still puzzles taxonomists. N.T. Mirov who has studied these pines, as well as others, states in his monograph The Genus Pinus, that the reclassification of Pinus parviflora should be studied further.

In my second book, The Encyclopedia of Classical Bonsai Art, Volume 2, Japanese Five-needle Pine, Nature, Gardens, Bonsai & Taxonomy, I basically said that some taxonomists have split Pinus parviflora into two separate species, Pinus pentaphylla (which is northern) and Pinus himekomatsu (from the south). Two famous plant explorers, Philip Sielbold and Joseph Zuccarini originally described and classified the Japanese five-needle pine as Pinus parviflora in 1842. Other explorers have also studied this species and slit them into the two other species.

But we are generally growing Japanese five-needle pine, Pinus parviflora for bonsai. In the horticultural world the name Japanese white pine is used commonly used for this species. However in the bonsai world we generally use the name Japanese five-needle pine since it is closest to the Japanese translation of "goyo matsu" (pine with five leaves).

Not to make things more difficult, but there are also a few other pine species with five needles per fascicle native to Japan. Japanese stone pine, Pinus pumila is sometime trained for bonsai in Japan. The others are rarely trained for bonsai in Japan.

By the way, in Japan the bonsai artists do not care if Japanese five-needle pine is a Pinus parviflora, Pinus pentaphylla or Pinus himekomatsu. They just call this species "goyo matsu". It is important to realize that most of the Japanese bonsai artists do not have the background, nor interest to discuss taxonomy. They are only interested in training and growing bonsai, as are most of the bonsai artists around the world.

Hope this helps,

PS: My pine book as well as Volume 1 on propagation techniques used to create bonsai have long been out of print and are difficult to locate.
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: John Kirby on November 03, 2010, 09:12 AM
Thanks Bill,
The plant taxonomists have a difficult time in ordering these "creatures" as there are few if any distinct differences, other than one came from the north and the other came from the south (or somewhere in the middle), not really a solid basis as you know better than most the variability of seedling JWP is greater than that of the range differences. When I used to teach these concepts, it was always difficult for folks to get the traditional concept of a species as a group of identical beings out of their heads. The one that is a classic for North American Bonsai is the Taxodium Cypress group, with some claiming 3 species (Pond, Bald and Montezuma Cypress) and the taxonomists now using molecular markers to clump them into the same species as races or clinal variants.

I think the key point is as you pointed out, it really doesn't matter, just work to make the best bonsai out of them you can.

Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: Judy on January 14, 2013, 02:30 PM
I found this old thread while looking around at JWP stuff, I had noticed that NEBG has a couple JWP that they are specifically listing as pentaphylla, and wondered at the difference if any.  They only list a few out of their JWP stock as this variety. 
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: John Kirby on January 15, 2013, 12:19 AM
I would be interested in seeing what they are calling "pentaphylla", it is most likely just another graft.
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: Judy on January 15, 2013, 09:29 AM
They are grafted, but they are labelled differently than the other grafted JWP's.  Here is a link to the page... there are 2 towards the bottom that are listed as pentaphylla. (
Title: Re: parviflora vs pentaphylla
Post by: John Kirby on January 15, 2013, 03:49 PM
They are the same scion material, so same tree- suggest parviflora = pentaphylla in the trade.