Château Lafayette Tree

Chavaniac, France

[French Rotarian Article] [French Rotarian Tree Presentation Photo]

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.

[Rotarian Article]

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 It is not clear exactly what happened after the tree was brought back to France, it may have died and been replaced by another tree.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. The 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.

[Chavaniac Tree Display]
Display from the presentation of the Moon Tree at the Rotarian convention.

[French Rotarian Tree Presentation Article] [French Rotarian Tree Presentation Photo] [French Rotarian Tree Presentation Article]
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For the little story, and the big one too, it is useful to tell, here, the unpublished story of a little sycamore which, by way of the air, comes to arrive at the Chateau de Chavaniac-Lafayett, and whose tender youth has been entrusted to the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.

Picture caption

The Moon tree was planted, the seed of which was carried by Apollo but the platanus occidentalis has suffered from its terrestrial journey.

Dansez maintenant

Dance Now

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 friendship."

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 N.A.S.A. astronauts.

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,
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dave Williams,
Last Updated: 8 March 2022, DRW