There’s A Tree In Philly That’s Been To The Moon And Back (Well, Sort Of)

Back in 1971, NASA astronaut Stuart Roosa set out on the Apollo 14 mission, becoming one of the 24 people to travel to the Moon. On the trip, he brought along 500 tree seeds as a favor to the U.S. Forest Service.

The agency, for which Roosa has hitherto served as a firefighter, had pondered about how being in space would affect tree seeds — namely, whether they’d be allowed to germinate back on Ground. The Apollo 14 mission presented itself as the perfect opportunity to exam it out, so they took advantage and asked for Roosa’s help. He was more than happy to participate in their experimentation, bringing seeds from five different types of trees into orbit with him. Many would afterwards grow into “Moon trees.”

After the mission, virtually all of the seeds germinated back at the Forest Service stations in Mississippi and California. Most of the seedlings were then sending them to nation forestry organizations to be planted as part of the 1976 Bicentennial gala, but some induced their behavior to the White House, Brazil, Switzerland, and the Emperor of Japan.

NASA and the Forest Service planted the first Moon tree in Philadelphia’s Washington Square in 1975.


Unfortunately, the sycamore didn’t survive very long and died in 2011.

But a new seedling cloned from the dead tree’s clippings was planted in its place soon after, successfully growing into the tree that stands there today.

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