Moon Tree Coastal Redwoods

Sequoia sempervirens

[Forest Service Accession Document] [Forest Service IFG Letter] [San Luis Obispo Moon Redwood]
Coastal redwood accession log page 2 from IFG, Moon Tree project IFG summary letter, San Luis Obispo Moon Redwood

The Moon Tree coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) seeds were collected by Carl Fowler from near his home in Soquel, Santa Cruz County, California in 1966. (IFG letter 9/22/1976 and IFG List of Lots, page 1). The location is listed as 37 deg N, 121 deg 50 min W, (this is just east of Soquel) at an elevation of 1200 ft. These were received by the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics (IFG) western station in Placerville, California, and logged and stored as accession Lot X.

[Forest Service Accession Document] [Forest Service Accession Document Notes] [Forest Service Accession Document Stutts Note]
Coastal redwood accession log page 2 from IFG, Coastal redwood accession log notes from IFG, Stutts notes on Lot X

On 15 January 1971, 500 of these seeds were sent to Dr. Charles Walkinshaw at NASA ( Lot X transmittal log ). He was also sent seeds from Douglas fir, sycamore, loblolly pine, and sweetgum trees, all carried by Stuart Roosa on the Apollo 14 flight from 31 January to 9 February 1971. 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.

[Lot X transmittal to NASA] [Forest Service Accession Document] [Forest Service IFG Letter]
Lot X transmittal to NASA form, 15 January 1971 ; 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, 150 coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) seeds were received on 25 July 1972 and logged in as Lot AI. They were stratified on 31 July 1972, germination began on 30 August, and germination was complete on 2 September. ( Other records show germination beginning on 21 August and being complete on 14 September, this does not seem to be correct because the stratification is referred to as taking 30 days.) Of the 150 seeds, 20 germinated successfully. This is considered to be a normal germination rate for coast redwoods (Handling summary). They were transferred into containers in October, 1972, at which time they ranged from 3 to 8 cm in height. They were kept in a cold greenhouse in winter. As of December 1972, 16 of the 20 redwood seedlings were still alive, at an average height of 55.3 cm. The four seedlings had died from damping-off fungi, again, this is considered a normal mortality rate.

[Disposition summary] [Johnson-Krugman letter 19 December 1972] [Forest Service IFG Letter]
Summary of disposition of "Moon Trees" ; Leroy Johnson letter 19 December 1972 ; and Stan Krugman letter, 31 March 1975

While the records seem to agree that 16 redwood seedlings were growing in Placerville in preparation for distribution as of the beginning of 1974, the story of the disposition of the seedlings becomes less clear after this point. The redwood seedlings were numbered from 1 to 16, as documented (Johnson, 1974). on 25 November 1974. But according to the Summary of Disposition, two seedlings died as of 23 January 1974 (footnote 9), which would have brought the number of living seedlings to 14. However, there is also a note in this letter that "The apparent discrepancy between this and the January 4, 1974 inventory is due to the repotting of double seedlings." We do not have the January 4 inventory, but the report of the two seedlings dying from 23 January 1974 is probably based on this inventory, in which case the inventory would have listed 14 seedlings. So the most likely explanation is that there were two double seedlings that were repotted, bringing the number back up to 16. (It is possible that there is a typo, and the two seedlings died on 23 January 1975 rather than 1974, but reports of 16 surviving seedlings persist beyond this date.)

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.

[Johnson-Krugman letter 25 November 1974] [IFG allotment list, 19 May 1976]
Leroy Johnson letter 25 November 1974 ; IFG allotment list 19 May 1976

All subsequent reports seem to indicate 16 seedlings total, only the Summary of Disposition gives 13 seedlings as having been distributed. The other reports ( 2007 Stutts note ; 1976 allotment list ; 1974 Johnson letter) are in general agreement. Three seedlings (numbers 1, 2, and 3) were released to the director of the Pacific Southwest Station) in Arcata, California on 2 May 1976, at a special request from Stan Krugman, for a dedication planting. (Note the original letter requests one redwood and one Douglas fir, this was apparently changed.) These are the three redwoods at Humboldt State University. On 26 April 1976, three seedlings (numbers 4, 5, and 8) were sent to Virginia, to the Chief Nurseryman at Yorktown Victory Center, in response to a request on 9 April 1976 from Stan Krugman to James King, head of the forest genetics research unit (Disposition summary, footnote 7). These are unaccounted for. It also appears one was kept "on-hand" at the Placerville station (as of 20 September 1976). the other nine (numbers 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16), along with two root cuttings, were picked up from the Placerville station on behalf of State Forester, Ron Adams on 2 April 1976 ( Richey letter, 1976 ; IFG seedling transmittal, 1976).

[Richey-Johnson letter 2 April 1976] [IFG Seedling Transmittal]
Richey-Johnson letter 2 April 1976 ; IFG seedling transmittal log

The handwritten note on the letter by LCJ (Leroy Johnson) on 26 April states that Henry J. Switzer picked up the seedlings and cuttings on 2 April. The note also mentions 10 seedlings, but only 9 are listed, presumably the 10 is an error. The seedling kept on-hand at Placerville would have been number 11. The note also lists twelve allocated places for the trees. The one tree at Capitol Park in Sacramento and the two trees at U.C. Berkeley (Tilden Park) are known. The Monterey Peninsula College tree is presumably the tree at Friendly Plaza. Two trees were slated for Humboldt State University, but that is where the three Arcata trees are located, so these are not known to be there. No records are known of the trees designated at the other sites: two at College of the Redwoods in Fortuna, one at U.C. Santa Cruz, one at Cabrillo College in Santa Cruz, or two in Southern California. Conversely, the allocated place list does not include the trees known to have been planted at El Dorado Hills, Lockeford, and San Luis Obispo. Altogether, of the 17 redwood trees released from Placerville (15 seedlings, 2 root cuttings), seven have not been located, four in California and the three in Virginia.

On 3 January and 28 February 1975, the trees were root pruned and repotted. At this time, at the request of Stan Krugman, approximately 100 root cuttings, or ramets, were taken and rooted, these were logged as Lot AJ (IFG accession log notes). There is also a report in the IFG notes, page 2, that of 102 root cuttings taken on 3 January and 28 February, 1975, 93 rooted and survived. Except for the two given to the California State Forester, their disposition is not known. Presumably the two redwoods in Brazil came from these cuttings. There is also a note on the allotment list that says "SeSe Lot AJ cutting 8/20/76" which may refer to the release of another cutting on that date.

[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, accession log (lists of lots - redwoods), page 1

Institute of Forest Genetics, accession log (lists of lots - redwoods), page 2

Institute of Forest Genetics, accession log (lists of lots - redwoods), notes

Institute of Forest Genetics, Lot X transmittal to NASA, 15 January 1971

Institute of Forest Genetics, seedling transmittal form

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

Krugman, S., letter, "Moon Trees" for New Laboratory at Arcata, 31 March 1975

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

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

Johnson, L., allotment list, 19 May 1976

Johnson, L., letter, Moon Trees Project, 22 September 1976

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

Richey, L., letter, Disposition of Moon Trees, 1 May 2007

Stutts, R., Notes, BT source history, 1 May 2007

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: 7 April 2021, DRW