Moon Tree Sycamores, Loblolly Pines, and Sweetgums

Pseudotsuga menziesii, Pinus taeda, Liquidambar styraciflua

[Holliston, Mass. sycamore] [Athens, Ga. loblolly pine] [ sweetgum]
Moon Trees: Sycamore (Holliston, Massachusetts) ; Loblolly Pine (Athens, Georgia) ; Sweetgums (Tell City, Indiana)

After their flight on Apollo 14, all seeds for the sycamores (Platanus occidentalis), loblolly pines (Pinus taeda), and sweetgums (Liquidambar styraciflua) were eventually received and grown by the U.S. Forest Service Institute of Forest Genetics (IFG) southern station in Gulfport, Mississippi. (The coast redwoods and Douglas firs were grown at the Institute of Forest Genetics (IFG) western station in Placerville, California.)

Seeds for the various trees were collected from specific locations. The sycamores were collected from Claiborne County, Mississippi. The seeds for the loblolly pines were collected in Livingston Parish, Lousiana, and New Kent County, Virginia. The sweetgum seeds were collected in Bladen County, North Carolina. The seeds were originally sent to Dr. Charles Walkinshaw, who was with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on special assignment with NASA managing the Lunar Receiving Lab at Johnson Space Center Houston. All the seeds were packaged, carried by Stuart Roosa on the Apollo 14 flight, and returned to Earth.

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

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. 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).

[Forest Service Accession Document]
Ron Dinus letter, 10 July 1972

The remaining sycamore, loblolly pine, and sweetgum seeds were then sent to the IFG southern station in Gulfport, Mississippi; and the coast redwood and Douglas fir seeds were sent to the IFG western station in Placerville, California, in July of 1972. The trees were germinated and grown at the stations. On 16 May 1975, a letter (below) was sent out from the U.S. Forest Service to all the state foresters advising them of the availability of the Moon Tree seedlings. The seedlings were distributed across the country for plantings, primarily in 1976 to celebrate the nation's bicentennial.

[Ellis/Burnett Letter 1975]
Copy of letter received by the New York State
Department of Environmental Conservation.


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

Ellis T., letter, "Moon Tree" seedlings, 16 May 1975

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

All letters and information courtesy Erica Botkin and the Institute of Forest Genetics, Placerville, California,
except "Moon Tree" seedlings letter courtesy Kendall Nagi.

Stuart Roosa and the Moon Tree Seeds

Institute of Forest Genetics, Gulfport, Mississippi

Institute of Forest Genetics, Placerville, California

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: 11 August 2023, DRW