The Moon Trees


“Scattered around our planet are hundreds of creatures that have been to the Moon and back again. None of them are human.”—NASA


On January 31, 1971, Apollo 14 lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, launching astronauts Edgar Mitchell, Alan Shepard, and Stuart Roosa to the moon. Roosa, an Air Force test pilot, had also served as a “smokejumper” for the U.S. Forest Service, parachuting out of planes to help put out forest fires. He and a colleague named Stan Krugman wanted to find out whether tree seeds would still grow after a trip to space.

With the approval of NASA, Krugman chose five varieties: sycamores, sweetgums, Douglas firs, redwoods, and loblolly pines. He chose most of them because they grow well all over the country, and chose redwoods because they are so well-known. He kept an identical group on Earth as a control. “The scientists wanted to find out what would happen to these seeds if they took a ride to the Moon,” said Krugman. “Would the trees look normal?”


Apollo 14 is famous for a different experiment: moon golf. While Roosa (and his 500 seeds) orbited in the Kitty Hawk command module 118 miles above the surface, Alan Shepard used a modified lunar collection device to send a few chip shots into the Fra Mauro crater. On the mission’s return to Earth, the seeds were accidentally exposed to a vacuum during decontamination procedures. They were “traumatized,” said Krugman, but after careful attention, they all started growing.

NASA gave away most of the Moon Trees—which is what they’re called—as part of America’s Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. One was planted in Philadelphia’s Independence Square by Roosa…

The Old Gum Tree

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Old Gum Tree Public Domain
Plaque from 1857 celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Proclamation of the Colony of South Australia on 28 December 1836, located at The Old Gum Tree Reserve at Glenelg North, South Australia. Bahudhara/CC BY-SA 4.0
I shilling green postage stamp, Australia, 1936: The Old Gum Tree (formerly the Proclamation Tree) centenary Public Domain
Depiction of the Proclamation of South Australia 1836. Public Domain

Bertolt: An Uncommonly Tender Illustrated Story of Love, Loss, and Savoring Solitude Without Suffering Loneliness

Since long before researchers began to illuminate the astonishing science of what trees feel and how they communicate, the human imagination has communed with the arboreal world and found in it a boundless universe of kinship. A seventeenth-century gardener wrote of how trees “speak to the mind, and tell us many things, and teach us many good lessons.” Hermann Hesse called them “the most penetrating of preachers.” They continue to furnish our lushest metaphors for life and death.

Crowning the canon of arboreal allegories is Bertolt (public library) by French-Canadian geologist-turned-artist Jacques Goldstyn — the uncommonly tender story of an ancient tree named Bertolt and the boy who named and loved it. From Goldstyn’s simple words and the free, alive, infinitely expressive line of his illustrations radiates a profound parable of belonging, reconciling love and loss, and savoring solitude without suffering loneliness.

The story, told in the little boy’s voice, begins with the seeming mundanity of a lost mitten, out of which springs everything that is strange and wonderful about the young protagonist.

He heads to the Lost and Found and walks away with two gloriously mismatched mittens, which give him immense joy but spur the derision of the other boys.

“Sometimes people don’t like what’s different,” he observes with the precocious sagacity of one who knows that other people’s judgements are about them and not about the judged, echoing Bob Dylan’s assertion that “people have a hard time accepting anything that overwhelms them.”

But the little boy is unperturbed — a self-described “loner,” he seems rather centered in his difference and enjoys his solitude.

Unlike the other townspeople, who are constantly doing things together, he is content in his own company — a perfect embodiment of the great film director Andrei Tarkovsky’s advice to the young.

Most of all, the boy cherishes his time with Bertolt — the ancient oak he loves to climb.

After seeing a smaller nearby tree cut down and counting its rings, he estimates that Bertolt is at least 500 years old, inching toward the world’s oldest living trees.

Nearly Every Avocado in the US Is Descended from the Same Tree

Imagine all the avocados in the entire United States coming from one single tree. Sounds outrageous, doesn’t it?

Well it’s true.

Photo Credit: did you know?

Rudolph Hass was working as a mailman in California when he saw an advertisement for an avocado tree in a magazine. Hass got a bright idea: he ordered avocado seeds and planted them because he thought it would be a nice side gig to make some extra cash.

Hass accidentally grew one stubborn plant that didn’t graft…