Grown from a seed that orbited the Moon in 1971. See Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Moon Tree. PHOTOS

The Moon Tree at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, AL. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

Alabama’s links with the US space program are deep rooted. Did you know the same can be said for a very special tree at Birmingham’s Botanical Gardens? Find out more about the Birmingham Moon Tree, a very special American Sycamore tree that has an out of this world story.

The Moon Tree rises above Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

I recently visited Birmingham Botanical Gardens on a beautiful sunny day and was in search of much needed shade when I discovered Birmingham’s Moon Tree.

I knew about Huntsville’s connection with space flight, but it was a pleasant surprise to find out about this special tree in Birmingham which was planted from a seed that once orbited the Moon on a NASA Apollo mission.

Birmingham’s Moon Tree

Dunn Formal Rose Garden is overlooked by the Moon Tree. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

The Moon Tree can be found next to the Dunn Formal Rose Garden, at Birmingham Botanical Gardens (Free Entry) and was grown from a seed that orbited the Moon with astronaut Stuart Roosa in Apollo 14’s command module, on a 1971 lunar mission.

Finding shade underneath the Moon Tree. Photo by Jon Eastwood (via 10 second timer and a tripod) for Bham Now.

The seeds were taken into space to study the effects of weightlessness on seed germination and seedling growth.

Command Module Pilot, Stuart Roosa, who worked in forestry in his youth, performed scientific experiments while orbiting the moon and took several hundred seeds on the mission. Following a successful trip to the surface of the moon by Commander Alan Shepard and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell, the crew returned to Earth on February 9, 1971.

Apollo 14 crew; Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa (L), Commander Alan Shepard (C), and Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell (R). Photo via NASA (Public Domain Image).

After landing, the seeds were sent off for germination, with most germinating successfully. Between 1975 and 1976 as part of the United States’ bicentennial festivities, much of the seedlings were distributed to forestry organizations throughout the US, and the world.

Information board underneath the Moon Tree at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

The Moon Tree, an American Sycamore, was planted at Birmingham Botanical Gardens on February 25, 1976.  

The Moon Tree at Birmingham Botanical Gardens is an American Sycamore. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

The seeds of many different tree species were taken on the mission, with approximately 80 ‘Moon Trees being grown, mostly in the US, but also in Brazil, Italy, and Switzerland.

Alabama’s Moon Trees

Birmingham, Alabama’s Moon Tree. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

Alabama had five Moon Trees. Four are still alive.

Auburn University, G.W Andrews Forestry Sciences Lab. Planted Oct 22, 1976 (No longer alive).

Birmingham, Botanical Gardens. Planted February 25, 1976.

Montgomery, State Capitol. Planted April 1976.

Troy, Pioneer Museum of Alabama. Planted August 5, 1976.

Tuscumbia, Ivy Green (Birthplace of Helen Keller). Planted October 1976.

Have you seen them? Send us your pics.

Visit the Birmingham Moon Tree

This year will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s historic moon landing.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens – Moon Tree. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now.

See Birmingham’s connection to the historic Apollo space program at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

More information about the Moon Tree and the gardens available at bbgardens.org

Author: Jon Eastwood

Originally from Wales (UK) and a fluent Welsh speaker. Longtime sustainability and recycling champion. Former county recycling manager in the UK. Career highlights include introducing innovative recycling systems and achieving a point where households throw out trash just once a month. Competed in international coastal rowing championships and followed Wales throughout Europe in their Rugby and Soccer endeavours.