Moon Tree Ceremony - Philadelphia PA

In February of 1971, astronaut Stuart A. Roosa carried several thousand seeds into space on Apollo 14 as part of a joint project between the U.S. Forest Service and NASA. On May 6, 1975, a sycamore “Moon Tree” grown from one of those seeds was planted in Philadelphia’s Washington Square Park.

Several years ago the National Park Service – the agency that manages the park and routinely monitors for dangerous, damaged or dying flora - realized that the Moon Tree was ailing. They enlisted the help of The Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, who cloned the sycamore by taking cuttings.

On September 24, 2011, a ceremony was held in Washington Square to plant the new Moon Tree clone. Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod and Colonel Christopher Roosa (son of Stuart Roosa) gave speeches, and then a worker with a chainsaw took down the original Moon Tree. The crowd yelled “timber” in unison when it fell.

Next, Anthony S. Aiello, Director of Horticulture and Curator from theMorris Arboretum, took the podium and explained tree cloning. Then each of the speakers took turns placing soil at the base of the sapling.

The Moon Tree in Washington Square was “my” tree, in the sense that it was one of my favorites in Philadelphia, I visited it on a regular basis over the years, and I mourned its passing. You cannot even imagine how thrilled I was when the director of the park invited members of the audience to help plant the new Moon Tree.

Unfortunately, my camera acted up at that moment, so the nice lady who offered to take my picture didn’t get a photo of me participating in the ceremony. I am normally squirrelly about having my picture taken by strangers, but this is one case when I’m hoping someone got a photo of me holding a shovel, and that it will surface online (I was wearing a beige dress with tree branches printed on it and a beige silk cardigan, just in case any of you have a photo, or perhaps see one).

Here is a fascinating Science Daily article about the Moon Trees:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center (2011, February 10).
Race against time to find Apollo 14's lost voyagers: 'Moon trees'.

Photos by Glamorosi:

Top: (L to R) Park Superintendent Cynthia MacLeod, Colonel Christopher Roosa and Anthony S. Aiello from the Morris Arboretum stand with the clone; the original Moon Tree, cut down, is in the foreground.

Middle: The original Moon Tree, falling after a worker makes a few strategic cuts.

Bottom: Marker for the original Moon Tree, planted as part of the USA's Bicentennial celebration. You can click on the photo to read the inscription.

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