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Planting the seeds of growth for a restoration program

By Jeff Moore

Scattered about our planet are hundreds of organisms that have orbited the Moon and been purposely introduced to different Earth environments just to see what would happen. None of them are human, and after 20 years of growth, most have gone missing.

Fuchs Wetland Restoration Program Construction Project, Jefferson County

In the late afternoon of Jan. 31, 1971, Apollo 14 was launched in what would be the U.S.’s third trip to the lunar surface. While Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the Moon, Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, orbited above in the command module, the Kitty Hawk. Roosa’s personal kit contained a metal cylinder, 6-inches-long and 3-inches-wide, which held hundreds of tree seeds as part of a joint NASA/USFS project.

Seeds for the experiment were chosen from five different types of trees: Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood and Douglas Fir.

Such seeds would be perfect for use in the estimated $25,000-$100,000 Fuchs wetland restoration project in Jefferson County which bids on Sept. 1.

Back to the “space seeds.” They were sent to a Forest Service station in Gulfport, Miss., and to a station in Placerville, Calif., to attempt germination. Nearly all the seeds germinated successfully and the Forest Service had some 420 seedlings after a few years (some from cuttings). Some of these were planted with their earth-bound counterparts as controls, and after more than 20 years, there is no discernible difference.

They reproduced with Earth trees and their offspring, called half-Moon trees, were normal as well.

Most were given away in 1975 and 1976 to many state forestry organizations and other countries to be planted as part of the United State’s bicentennial celebration. They stand as a living tribute to Roosa, NASA and the Apollo program.

A list of known moon trees exists, but Wisconsin is noticeably absent.

Jeff Moore is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. If you know of a moon tree in Wisconsin, let him know.

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