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From Lunar Orbit to Earth’s Soil – The Astonishing Journey of the Moon Trees

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Written By Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

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Home » Ancient & Remarkable Trees » From Lunar Orbit to Earth’s Soil – The Astonishing Journey of the Moon Trees

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if trees could talk?

What tales they might tell of the cosmos?

Enter the world of Moon Trees, a leafy ensemble with spacefaring roots, quite literally!

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Loblolly Pine ‘Moon Tree’ in front of Sebastian County Courthouse, in Fort Smith, Arkansas – Credit: Jesse Berry (catsmoke), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Celestial Voyage

Back in 1971, Stuart Roosa, the Command Module Pilot for Apollo 14 and a former smokejumper, took on a unique mission—not battling blazes, but carrying a canister filled with about 500 tree seeds into orbit around the Moon.

This botanical crew included loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, and Douglas fir, all selected for a journey that would take them about 238,900 miles away from their earthly home.

Fast forward to 2022, and this arboreal adventure got a sequel with NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, doubling down with 1,000 seeds aiming for lunar glory.

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An American sycamore “Moon Tree” located in Keystone Heights, Florida. Credit: Whoisjohngalt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sprouting Across the States and Beyond

Upon their return, these intrepid seeds were germinated with the help of the Forest Service in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Placerville, California.

The result?

A vibrant troop of around 420 seedlings ready to sink their roots into Earth’s soil.

In a move that combined patriotism with botany, many of these saplings were planted during America’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, with some taking root in international soils—from Brazil’s Soybean Fairgrounds to the Swiss Transport Museum.

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Loblolly Pine ‘Moon Tree’ Waycross, Georgia – Credit: Jud McCranie, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Tale of the Lost Trees

For years, the whereabouts of these cosmic cultivars were as murky as a foggy rainforest. That was until 1996 when a third-grade teacher and her curious students stumbled upon a plaque-labeled Moon Tree.

This discovery led to a space agency scramble, with NASA employee Dave Williams spearheading a cosmic botany bonanza to track down these scattered seeds of history. Now, there’s a whole database for those who wish to gaze upon these galactic gardeners!

The Moon Tree Foundation – Planting for the Future

Roosa’s daughter, continuing her father’s legacy, established the Moon Tree Foundation. Its mission? To plant and celebrate new generations of Moon Trees around the globe.

It’s a touching tribute to the trees that have not only traveled further than most of us ever will but also serve as living links to our aspirations among the stars.

Sycamore Moon Tree Camp Koch
Sycamore ‘Moon Tree’ at Koch Girl Scout Camp in Cannelton, Indiana – Credit: NASA.gov

From Celestial Seeds to Earthly Sentries

These trees, unassuming yet extraordinary, stand as verdant monuments to human ingenuity and the shared destiny of all Earth’s residents—be they rooted in the ground or floating in zero gravity.

So the next time you stroll past a towering tree, just think: it might have lunar stories woven through its rings, a silent sentinel connecting us to the vast beyond.

What could be more out of this world than that?

Want More?

Are you captivated by the celestial origins of the Moon Trees?

Explore the stories of these incredible trees, from the twisted branches of the Crooked Forest in Poland to the stoic Major Oak.

Marvel at the submerged beauty of the Sunken Forest in Lake Kaindy, look up at Hyperion—the tallest tree on Earth, honor the ancient Methuselah, and stroll through the majestic Avenue of Baobabs.

Each of these extraordinary trees tells a unique story, merging beauty with history, and invites you to reflect on their enduring impact on our world.

Sources – Wikipedia & NASA

Featured Image Credit: Jesse Berry (catsmoke), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Lakeisha Ethans

Heritage Gardener with Grafting Expertise

Lakeisha grew up in East Africa, literally surrounded by nature which sparked her interest in learning more about trees and plants from a very young age. She belongs to a family of gardeners, so for her, gardening is a way of life, a tradition she’s proud to uphold. As a self-taught gardener, Lakeisha has successfully grafted trees to produce hybrids for gardens and landscapes. When she’s not gardening, she’s writing about her experience with nature or watching baking fails!