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Moon Tree: A Tree from Seeds Taken to Space Needs Help, in Idaho

Oct 16, 2015 05:13 PM EDT
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A moon tree grows in Boise, Idaho. This isn't a rounded tree, like a moon shell would be--it is one associated with a 1970s space flight and a subsequent seed distribution program that was well-known at the time but has since faded from national attention, like pine needles fallen to the ground. Alas, this unique tree isn't doing so well, as the Idaho-Statesman newspaper recently reported.

A loblolly pine planted in 1977, the tree is the product of seeds that flew aboard the Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 1971. It is reported to be dehydrated and infected with insects, but a group is trying to save it, confirmed the newspaper.

Here is the history of this and certain other trees planted around the nation: Astronaut Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, carried about 400-500 seeds in his personal kit as he orbited the moon in the command module on the Apollo 14 flight. Later, on Earth, the Forest Service germinated more than 420 seedlings from the seeds. Many of them, which were southern and western species of trees, were given to state forestry associations in those areas in 1975 and 1976 for the bicentennial celebration, according to NASA's website.

At that time, a loblolly pine from the seedlings was also planted at the White House, and other trees were planted in Brazil and Switzerland, among others. Others were planted in Philadelphia's Washington Square, at Valley Forge, and at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., the NASA website confirmed. 

Pattie Hennequin, who has a third-grade child enrolled at the elementary school in Boise where the tree grows, is leading the effort to save the tree. "It went into space and it orbited the moon 34 times. It's a little, special piece of the nation's history," said Hennequin in a video on the newspaper website.

Idaho Tree Preservation arborists are donating time to try to rid the tree of insects. The nearby neighborhood association has vouched to pay for the water that the pine needs each week.

You can donate to the Idaho moon tree's upkeep at an account set up by the Boise Public Schools Foundation, if you click on the "Donate" tab. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).
-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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