America’s Many Moon Trees

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You’ve probably never known this, but chances are somewhere [relatively] near you is a tree that once orbited the moon back when it was nothing more than a tiny seed.

Apollo 14 launched on what was man’s third trip to the lunar surface on the afternoon of January 31, 1971.  Five days later Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the Moon while Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, orbited above in the command module. Packed in small containers in Roosa’s personal kit were hundreds of tree seeds, part of a joint NASA/US Forest Service project designed to discover whether seeds could germinate after enduring the rigors and radiation of space.  With many eyes looking deeper into the heavens, it was believed that this experiment would help pave the way for a manned trip to Mars.

Seeds were chosen from five different types of trees: Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir. The seeds were classified and sorted, and control seeds were kept on Earth for later comparison. Roosa carried about 400 – 500 seeds in his personal kit which stayed with him as he orbited the Moon in the command module “Kitty Hawk” in February, 1971.

Upon return to Earth, the seeds germinated without the slightest signs of issues and became known as the “Moon Trees”.

As the seedlings matured into young trees, they were planted throughout the United States (mostly the Southeast and West), often as part of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Jesse Berry, Moon Tree in front of Sebastian County Courthouse, in Fort Smith, Arkansas
PHOTO: Courtesy of Jesse Berry, Moon Tree in front of Sebastian County Courthouse, in Fort Smith, Arkansas

 

In addition to being planted at state parks and various public places, a Loblolly Pine was planted at the White House, and trees were planted in Brazil, Switzerland, and presented to the Emperor of Japan, among others. Trees have also been planted in Washington Square in Philadelphia, at Valley Forge, in the International Forest of Friendship, and at various universities and NASA centers.

Below is a list of all known “Moon Trees” in the world: 

City and state Location Type of tree Planting date
Auburn University,
Alabama
G.W. Andrews Forestry Sciences Lab Loblolly Pine * 22 October 1976
Birmingham,
Alabama
Birmingham Botanical Garden Sycamore April 1976
Montgomery,
Alabama
State Capitol Loblolly Pine April 1976
Troy,
Alabama
Pioneer Museum of Alabama Loblolly Pine 5 August 1976
Tuscumbia,
Alabama
Ivy Green Loblolly Pine 19 October 1976
Flagstaff,
Arizona
Flagstaff Jr. High School Douglas Fir 30 April 1976
Tucson,
Arizona
Kuiper Space Sciences Building, University of Arizona Sycamore 30 April 1976
Ft. Smith,
Arkansas
Sebastian County Courthouse Loblolly Pine 15 March 1976
Washington,
Arkansas
Old Washington Historic State Park Loblolly Pine 15 March 1976
Arcata,
California
Humboldt State University 3 Redwoods
Berkeley,
California
Tilden Nature Area Redwood 26 July 1976
Monterey,
California
Friendly Plaza Redwood July 1976
San Luis Obispo,
California
Mission Plaza Redwood 30 July 1976
Sacramento,
California
State Capital Redwood
Cape Canaveral,
Florida
Kennedy Space Center Sycamore*[3] 25 June 1976
Gainesville,
Florida
University of Florida Sycamore
Perry,
Florida
Forest Capital Museum State Park Loblolly Pine 26 April 1978
Tallahassee,
Florida
Cascades Park Sycamore
Tallahassee,
Florida
Doyle Conner Building Loblolly Pine
Boise,
Idaho
Lowell Elementary School Loblolly Pine 1977
Moscow,
Idaho
University of Idaho Sycamore
Cannelton,
Indiana
Camp Koch Girl Scout Camp Sycamore 1976
Indianapolis,
Indiana
Indiana Statehouse Sycamore 9 April 1976
Lincoln City,
Indiana
Lincoln State Park Sycamore 1 May 1976
Tell City,
Indiana
Forest Service Office 2 Sweetgums 1976
Atchison,
Kansas
International Forest of Friendship Sycamore
Elmer,
Louisiana
Palustris Experimental Forest Loblolly Pine April 1976
New Orleans,
Louisiana
New Orleans River Walk Loblolly Pine June 1983
Bethesda,
Maryland
Society of American Foresters Loblolly Pine 30 September 1975
Greenbelt,
Maryland
Goddard Space Flight Center Sycamore 9 June 1977
Holliston,
Massachusetts
Holliston Police Station Sycamore April 1976
Mississippi State,
Mississippi
The Junction Sycamore 1975
Waynesboro,
Mississippi
Forestry Commission Nursery Sycamore
DeSoto,
Missouri
Walthers Park Sycamore
Pisgah National Forest,
North Carolina
Cradle of Forestry in America Sycamore
Asheville Botanical Garden,
North Carolina
UNC Asheville Sycamore
South Brunswick,
New Jersey
South Brunswick High School Sycamore
Jefferson County,
Ohio
Friendship Park Sycamore 29 July 1976
Eugene,
Oregon
Erb Memorial Union, University of Oregon (Initially planted at Willamette Hall, moved in 1980) Douglas Fir 1976
Roseburg,
Oregon
U.S. Veteran’s Hospital Douglas Fir 3 May 1976
Corvallis,
Oregon
Peavy Hall, Oregon State University Douglas Fir 1976
Salem,
Oregon
State Capitol Building Douglas Fir 30 April 1976
Salem,
Oregon
Private Residence 2 Douglas Firs 1973
Ebensburg,
Pennsylvania
Cambria County Courthouse Sycamore 29 June 1976
Hollidaysburg,
Pennsylvania
Highland Hall Sycamore 5 May 1976
King of Prussia,
Pennsylvania
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Building Sycamore 30 June 1976
Newtown/Langhorne,
Pennsylvania
Core Creek Park Sycamore 30 April 1976
Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania
Washington Square Sycamore* 6 May 1975
Knoxville,
Tennessee
University of Tennessee Loblolly Pine April 1976
Sewanee,
Tennessee
University of the South Sycamore April 1976
Tullahoma,
Tennessee
Arnold Air Force Base Loblolly Pine April 1976
Olympia,
Washington
State Capitol Building Douglas Fir
Huntsville,
Alabama
U.S. Space and Rocket Center 5 Sycamores,
2 Pines *
29 October 1976
Tuskegee,
Alabama
VA Hospital (CAVHCS) Loblolly Pine * 1976
Little Rock,
Arkansas
Forestry Commission Headquarters Loblolly Pine * 15 March 1976
Monticello,
Arkansas
University of Arkansas at Monticello Loblolly Pine * 1977?
New Orleans,
Louisiana
NASA Michoud Assembly Facility Loblolly Pine (2?) * July 1976
North Pembroke,
Massachusetts
Historical Society Sycamore? * April 1976
Albuquerque,
New Mexico
Civic Plaza Douglas Fir *
Illinois Valley,
Oregon
Siskiyou Smoke Jumper Base Douglas Fir *
Washington,
D.C.
White House Loblolly Pine * 19 January 1977
Plano, Texas Plano Senior High School Sycamore 4 November 2009
Brasília,
Brazil
Ibama Central Building’s garden Sweetgum 14 December 1980
Tradate,
Italy
Appiano Gentile Park Loblolly Pine 10 October 2011
Bracey,
Virginia
River Ridge Golf & Camping Club Sycamore 31 January 1971
*Doswell, Virginia Kings Dominion [4]
Lucerne,
Switzerland
Swiss Transport Museum Sycamore 08 October 2011

 

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