Moon Tree Douglas Firs

Pseudotsuga menziesii

[Forest Service IFG Letter] [Olympia, Washington Douglas Fir]
Moon Tree project IFG summary letter and Olympia, Washington Moon Douglas Fir

The Moon Tree Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) seeds were supposedly collected from two locations, Benton County, Oregon, and El Dorado County, California (Ostrum letter 5/20/1972). However, there seems to be some uncertainty as to where the seeds came from (Johnson letter 12/19/1972). These were received by the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics (IFG) western station in Placerville, California. Unfortunately the seeds were mixed after the flight, so it is impossible to tell for any of the Douglas firs which lot they came from (IFG letter 9/22/1976).

[Johnson-Krugman letter 19 December 1972] [Johnson-Krugman letter 25 November 1974]
Leroy Johnson letters of 19 December 1972 and 25 November 1974

These seeds, along with seeds from coastal redwoods, sycamore, loblolly pine, and sweetgum trees were sent to Dr. Charles Walkinshaw at NASA and carried by Stuart Roosa on the Apollo 14 flight. Dr. Walkinshaw was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on special assignment with NASA managing the Lunar Receiving Lab at Johnson Space Center Houston.

After their return to Earth, many of the seeds were grown in cellulose thimbles in Houston under controlled conditions, supervised by Dr. Walkinshaw (20 May 1971 letter ( page 1 and page 2 ) from Carl Ostrum, Director of Timber Management Research). This letter also lists the sources of all the seeds used for the Moon Trees. Note that in the May 20 letter, Ostrum requested that the seeds be moved promptly to the IFG stations in Gulfport, Mississippi and Placerville, California because they did not have the necessary facilities to care for the seeds in Houston.

[Forest Service Accession Document] [Forest Service IFG Letter]
Carl Ostrum letter, Apollo XIV Tree Seeds, 20 May 1971

For some reason this was not done at that time. Apparently the majority of these seedlings failed to survive (10 July 1972 letter from Ron Dinus, project leader). The remaining coast redwood and Douglas fir seeds were then sent to the IFG western station in Placerville, California; and the sycamore, loblolly pine, and sweetgum seeds sent to the IFG southern station in Gulfport, Mississippi in July of 1972.

[Forest Service Accession Document] [Handling summary]
Ron Dinus letter, 10 July 1972 and Summary of handling "Moon Tree" seeds

According to the records from the IFG in Placerville, and the summary of handling of Moon Tree seeds, 64 Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii) seeds were received on 25 July 1972 and logged in as Lot NI. They were stratified on 31 July 1972, germination began on 9 September, 10 days after the 30 day stratification was completed ( IFG Moon Tree notes, 9/20/1976). Of the 64 seeds, 53 germinated successfully. This is considered to be a normal germination rate for Douglas firs. They were transferred into containers in October, 1972, at which time they ranged from 3 to 8 cm in height (Johnson letter, 12/19/1972). They were kept in a cold greenhouse in winter.

As of 25 November 1974, 37 of the 53 seedlings were still alive, at an average height of 40.5 cm (Johnson letter, 11/25/1974). The Douglas fir seedlings were also numbered from 1 to 37 at this time. The 16 seedlings had died from damping-off fungi, again, this is considered a normal mortality rate. One more of the seedlings died by 5 September 1975, at which time the remaining 36 seedlings were measured, had their roots pruned, and were transplanted to large containers. 68 root cuttings were started from these, of which 35 survived. They were logged at IFG Placerville as Lot NJ, but there we have no record of what became of the root cuttings after that.

The 1976 allotment list from Leroy Johnson (LCJ) is dated 5/19/76 and has handwritten notes dated "as of 9/20/76", and gives the allotments, dates, and tree numbers for the redwoods and Douglas firs.

[Disposition summary] [IFG Allotment List]
Summary of disposition of "Moon Trees" and IFG allotment list, May 19, 1976

Seedlings were shipped to various states ( summary of disposition of Moon Tree seeds, undated), mainly between 9 February and 13 May 1976: Arizona (2 seedlings), Idaho (6), Montana (4), Nevada (2), New Mexico (2), North Dakota (4), Oregon (8), Utah (2), and Washington (6). Two were also allotted to Maine and one to Minnesota, but there is no record of these being collected. Two of the eight Oregon trees were held until 1977. The majority of these trees are not accounted for.

[Forest Service IFG Notes] [Forest Service IFG Notes]
IFG Placerville notes on the coastal redwoods and Douglas firs


Dinus, R., letter, Apollo XIV Tree Seed, 10 July 1972

Institute of Forest Genetics, allotment list, 19 May 1976

Institute of Forest Genetics, notes, subject - Moon Trees, pages 1 and 2, 20 September 1976

Johnson, L., letter, Apollo XIV seed, 19 December 1972

Johnson, L., letter, Update, Apollo XIV tree seedlings, 25 November 1974

Johnson, letter, Moon Trees Project, 22 September 1976

Ostrum, C., letter, Apollo XIV Tree Seeds, pages 1 and 2, 20 May 1971

Moon Tree disposition summary, undated

Moon Tree handling summary, undated

Letters and information courtesy Erica Botkin and the Institute of Forest Genetics, Placerville, California.

Institute of Forest Genetics, Placerville, California

Institute of Forest Genetics, Gulfport, Mississippi

Moon Tree Home Page

Dr. David R. Williams,
NSSDCA, Mail Code 690.1
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771

NASA Official: Dr. David R. Williams,
Last Updated: 6 April 2021, DRW