Friday, March 25, 2011

The Mystery of the Moon Trees

When Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971 astronauts were not the only ones making a big leap on the moon. With them they carried hundreds of tree seeds!

The goal was to see if seeds taken to the moon and brought back to Earth would grow properly. Stuart Roosa, the astronaut who had taken them to the moon in small tin canisters, had selected a variety of Redwood, Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Douglas Fir and Sweetgum seeds. Upon their return to Earth the seeds were germinated and in 1976 the seedlings were transported and planted all over the world. They became known as "Moon Trees"!! The trees had no trouble adapting and grew normally. Many are still alive and flourishing today.

Official Moon Tree emblem

BUT the weird thing about this whole experiment is that NASA failed to keep any official records of where they planted the trees!?!??! I mean they kept track of a few, one was sent to The White House, another to the emperor of Japan, and one you can find right in front of the Kennedy Space Center. But what about the hundreds and hundreds of others?? For all we know, we could be surrounded by Moon Trees!!

Located at: Florida Division of Forestry in
Tallahassee, Florida
Plaque reads: Moon Tree, Loblolly Pine, Pinus Taeda

Moon Tree at the Kennedy Space Center
 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Moon Trees had been all but forgotten until this year where there has been a surprising amount of new interest because of the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 14 mission. Since 1996, NASA Scientist Dave Williams of Washington, D.C. has taken it upon himself to track down as many as he can. Right now 80 or so trees have been located and six of them are in Florida!!

   Located at: Keystone Heights Public Library 
                in Keystone Heights, Florida.     

  Plaque for Keystone Heights Moon Tree.

For some other great links - including one to buy your own Moon Tree seedling or seed kit - visit NASA's official MOON TREE page. Scroll to the bottom to see a list of all recorded Moon Trees thus far. Maybe there's a Moon Tree where you live!! And if you know of a Moon Tree that's not on that list - for gosh sakes tell
Dave Williams!!

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