Château Lafayette Tree
A sycamore Moon Tree was given to a group of French Rotarians by a group of U.S. Rotary International officers
at a "Thirteen Colonies Bicentennial Breakfast" at the Rotary International convention in New Orleans on 15 June 1976
as part of the France/U.S.A. Intercountry Committee.
The tree was presented to Raymond Pagès, chairman of the board of the foundation that owns
Château Lafayette, the birthplace of the Marquis de Lafayette, and Robert Schollemann,
past Vice-President of the Rotarians of France,
by past Rotary International Vice-President James L. Bomar, Jr. The tree was
brought back to France and planted in the garden of the Château Lafayette in the town of Chavaniac,
in the Haute-Loire region of France.
The tree is described as a "pine" in the
New Orleans Times-Picayune article,
although in the picture accompanying the
Rotarian Magazine article
the seedling clearly appears to be a sycamore, and the accounts in the newspapers in France also identify it as such.
It is not clear exactly what happened after the tree was brought back to France,
it may have died and been replaced by another tree. The
newspaper articles indicate the tree did not look very healthy when it arrived.
Château de Chavaniac-Lafayette’s Garden website
refers to the Moon Tree as a "Norway maple", which was not a type of seed brought on Apollo 14,
and may be the replacement tree.
Display from the presentation of the Moon Tree at the Rotarian convention.
Two articles and a picture from the French press on the tree planting.
A rough translation of the articles and caption can be found below.
Clipping at upper left courtesy of
New Orleans Times-Picayune
- used with permission.
Clipping at upper right and middle of page from The Rotarian Magazine, Oct. 1976.
Information courtesy Fred Kelso and Herman Schaumburg.
Rough literal English translations of the articles and photo caption above:
Petit sycomore deviendra grand...
Little sycamore will become big...
For the little story, and the big one too, it is useful to
tell, here, the unpublished story of a little sycamore which, by way of
the air, comes to arrive at the Chateau de Chavaniac-Lafayett, and whose
tender youth has been entrusted to the good care of the gardener of the
castle, Mr. Sejalon, who put it in a greenhouse, and watches, with
jealous care, its first growth, before it leaves to join the ancestral
trees in the park.
Yes, it has a story, this sycamore, and a high story! His seed coming
from the American Forest Service, Department of Agriculture went away,
one fine morning in January 1971 in the cabin of Apollo 14 and on
to the Moon. It was a question, for American scholars and
researchers, of trying an experiment and of performing, at the same time, a
symbolic gesture. It is necessary to believe that the said small seed
has retained its germinatic power, since after its lunar stay, it
returned, very much alive, on American soil, and turned into a small
seedling which is currently 60 cm tall.
And it is this dream sycamore that America has just offered to France
so that it can be planted in the land that saw the birth of LaFayette.
This tree, unique of its kind, was recently offered to MM. Raymond
Pages and Francois Gibert who participated in New Orleans in a
great meeting to lay the foundation of an inter-country committee
(between the thirteen states of the constitution) France United States.
This ceremony, in which some 350 people took part,
exhibited a lot of radiance. The seedling, wrapped in the colors of both countries,
accompanied by all its certificates of authenticity, was handed over,
officially, to Mr. Pages, president of Memorial Lafayette, who,
throughout his plane journey gave it vigilant care so
that it arrived, in its young blossoming, ready for Chavaniac-Lafayette.
Admittedly, for the time being this sycamore is still too small to be
planted in the park. We wish him good growth and long life. It goes without
saying that its planting in the native land of the general will take
place in some time, with a new official ceremony.
The Moon tree was planted, the seed of which was carried by Apollo but
the platanus occidentalis has suffered from its terrestrial journey.
With a shovel of old allies, he had had time with Mr. Taittinger to
plant, in a corner of the park, this moon tree whose seed was conveyed by
Apollo to the stars, then pushed here by the winds of Franco-American
friendship. If it is firmly rooted like the American oak planted in
Chavaniac in 1976, the moon tree beats its leaves. It weathered the
trip badly. But after Mr. Barrot's watering can, a water and forest
specialist who came to look into the fragile shrub made a reassuring
diagnosis. Only then the old gardener of the castle who spends the
summer at the bedside of the seedling could breathe.
Later at the official meal, the words of Mr. Jacques Barrot were able to
further nourish his peace of mind: "In this country, the trees grow well like
Franco-American friendship sometimes has pretty accents: such as that of
the Acadian Mr. Kenny Bowen. He is mayor of one of the 42 American
cities bearing the name of Lafayette. Mr. Verschuur consul general of
the U.S.A. in Lyon, in a more academic French, also brought
thanks from across the ocean.
And after the two worlds salad, lentil from Le Puy and pork from
Auvergne, one of the descendants of the hero of the day, M. De Chambrun,
served up some historical memories. All that remained was to taste the
local green verbena and the blueberry that once cleared up the sight of
U.S. Hosts Give French Rotarians Tree from Seed Taken to Moon - New Orleans Times-Picayune, 16 June 1976
France and the U.S.A., friends for 200 years - The Rotarian magazine, p. 10 - October, 1976
Château de Chavaniac-Lafayette’s Garden
Moon Tree Home Page
Dr. David R. Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771
NASA Official: Dave Williams, email@example.com
Last Updated: 8 March 2022, DRW