Moon trees conjure a very odd picture in our imaginations. We know that our Moon is devoid of life and that certainly trees are incapable of growing on it. The name moon tree almost sounds like an Ed Wood b-movie flick that would have been parodied on Mystery Science Theater 3000. But indeed Moon Trees are real and not the work of science fiction or extraterrestrial influences.
In 1971 a former smoke jumper named Stuart Roosa found himself in the adventure of a lifetime when he was selected to pilot the Command Module of Apollo 14. The Chief of the Forest Service contacted him and proposed he take some seeds along with him into space. Five different species were chosen, the loblolly pine, sycamore, sweetgum, redwood, and Douglas fir.
Following the successful flight the seeds were split up and taken to either Gulfport, Mississippi or Placerville, California to germinate, and most of them did, around 420 of the 500 seeds. The young trees were distributed around the country as part of the nation’s bicentennial and many placed next to native trees of the same species in protected forests to see if there was any difference in growth. Not all states received trees though, as the specimens were natives of the south and west. Some trees were also distributed to our international friends as well as state gifts.
One loblolly pine was planted on the White House and Moon Trees were planted on the grounds of the state houses of Alabama, California, Indiana, Oregon (pictured above), Utah, and Washington state. If you are interested in seeing if there is a Moon Tree near you, check out this site for a list. You may have a cosmic neighbor and not even know it!