Groups hope to save tree grown from seeds taken on Apollo 14

AP News
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Posted: Sep 30, 2015 11:44 AM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Boise, Idaho, residents are trying to save a tree that was grown from seeds taken aboard the Apollo 14 mission to the moon.

The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1JCwyDp) the loblolly pine planted in 1977 on Lowell Elementary School's campus is dehydrated and infected with insects.

Eagle Historical Museum curator Alana Dunn brought the tree to the school's attention. Pattie Hennequin has a third-grader enrolled at Lowell and is now leading the effort to save the so-called moon tree.

"The tree has a special place in our history," she said. "It's a fascinating thing to help teach kids about space exploration and to tie in a little Idaho history."

Astronaut Stuart Roosa included the seeds in his personal items at the request of the Forest Service, in part to test the effects of zero gravity. Roosa was a former Forest Service smoke jumper.

Most of the seeds germinated after returning from their journey in space and were distributed to schools and other entities to grow. Demand was so high the Forest Service grew more seedlings from cuttings of the trees.

Lowell got its tree because the son of then-Gov. John Evans was enrolled there.

It's unclear where all the moon trees were planted, with many of the known trees having died off since the 70s.

Arborists with Idaho Tree Preservation in Boise are donating time to deal with the insects. The North End Neighborhood Association has agreed to pay for the 275 gallons of water the pine needs each week.

Lowell students are making a plaque for the unmarked tree, which Principal Nick Smith said was hard to identify at first.

"We had to gather cones from both trees to figure out which one was the loblolly," he said.

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This story has been corrected to reflect that the seeds were aboard Apollo 14, not Apollo 13.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com