Maybe it’s been to the moon, but you’d never know it. This healthy
Douglas-fir is one of the moon seedlings planted across the United
States in 1976.
Forestry Extension agents
are used to fielding odd requests, but this one had Scott
Leavengood stumped. A man in Phoenix, Arizona, named Michael
Simon had heard there was a “moon tree” growing somewhere
on the grounds of the OSU College of Forestry. Could he get
Leavengood, an OSU Forest
Products Extension agent in Washington County, asked a few
questions. No, said Simon, it was not a tree grown on the
moon, but a tree planted from seeds that had orbited the moon
in 1971 with astronaut Stuart Roosa of the Apollo 14 team.
Simon was trying to get his 16-year-old daughter interested
in science, and he thought propagating a moon tree would be
a good father-daughter project.
Leavengood did some
investigating. Stuart Roosa had been a smokejumper in his
youth, and he and Forest Service officials arranged the seeds’
flight to the moon.
Afterward, the seeds were
germinated, and in 1975 and 1976 some 450 seedlings were given
to state forestry organizations throughout the country to
be planted as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration.
that one of the moon trees, a Douglas-fir seedling, had been
planted on the east lawn of Peavy Hall in 1976. Today the
tree is a healthy 40-foot-tall specimen, apparently none the
worse for its wanderings as a seed. Leavengood took cuttings
and cones from the tree and sent them to Simon.
The project did not have
the hoped-for effect on Simon’s daughter. “She didn’t find
moon trees exciting at all,” he confesses. But Simon went
ahead anyway, trying unsuccessfully to get the cuttings to
root. Now he intends to plant the seeds after conditioning
them in the freezer according to Leavengood’s instructions.
Leavengood wishes him
luck. “Generating a Douglas-fir from a cutting is a very difficult
task, even for a horticultural professional,” he says. Sprouting
a seed is somewhat easier, but it’s still tricky. “I’m hoping
he’ll keep me posted.”
The story of the
moon trees, including their present whereabouts, is posted
on the NASA web site, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/