A bonsai that was stolen from a Federal Way museum was found about 2 miles away, pruned and abandoned in bushes.
A 60-year-old miniature tree worth several thousand dollars was recovered Wednesday, two days after it was pilfered from a Federal Way bonsai museum.
Police said the 23-inch-tall San Jose juniper was seen by a resident of an apartment complex in the 33000 block of 17th Avenue South, about 2 miles from the Pacific Bonsai Museum.
Police said the man was on his third-floor balcony when he saw the tree in some bushes. Having heard media reports of the theft, he contacted police.
The tree had been “severely pruned,” according to museum officials. Police said the clippings were found behind the apartment building near where the tree was found.
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“We are so relieved to have this work of art returned,” said the museum’s curator, Aarin Packard. “Unfortunately, decades’ worth of work has been undone in two days.”
The pruning drastically changed the tree’s appearance, he said, but “the good news is that the tree will survive and hopefully, within years, we will be able to restore it to the work of art that it once was.”
Kathy McCabe, executive director of the museum, said that museum officials do not know who took the tree or why. She said it “looks like it was cared for and then abandoned.”
The tree, which was donated by bonsai artist Mas Moriguchi, has been among the nonprofit museum’s exhibits since it opened in 1989 on the Weyerhaeuser campus.
According to police, the tree was reported missing from the museum’s public-display area Monday morning.
Someone likely scaled a 7-foot fence to access the outdoor museum, snatched the tree and ran, setting off security alarms around 4:40 a.m., Packard said.
Federal Way police said Weyerhaeuser security did a perimeter check of the area but, after apparently finding no sign of a break-in, didn’t call police.
A gardener later discovered that a picnic table had been moved and was likely used to climb over the fence, police said.
On Monday, museum officials said the plant’s empty pot was found outside the museum and warned that without proper care the tree could die within a couple of days.
McCabe said it’s possible the publicity surrounding the missing tree may have caused the thief to ditch it.
The museum had placed the value of the tree at between $2,000 and $3,000.