Positively Philadelphia: Celebrating a famous Philly tree ahead of Arbor Day

Lauren Lipton
April 21, 2019 - 4:00 am

Lauren Lipton/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- We celebrate two holidays this upcoming week, Monday is Earth Day and Friday Arbor is Day, where we celebrate the importance of trees. Right here in Philadelphia we have a very important tree growing with quite a history behind it.

"The ‘Moon Tree’ is in Washington Square Park, at the corner of 6th and Walnut Streets, said Susan Edens, a historical landscape architect. “It got there because of Stuart Roosa, who was an astronaut and before that was a smoke jumper for the forest service. In 1971, Roosa was part of a mission to land on the moon and the forest service asked him to be part of an experiment to bring tree seeds into space to see if they would germinate once back on Earth.”

Edens says, Roosa agreed to the forest service’s request and put 500 different kinds of seeds in his own kit while orbiting the moon.

"On his return the seeds were successfully germinated and the first of the bicentennial ‘Moon Trees’ was planted in Washington Square Park,” Edens explained. “The tree that is now in Washington Square is not the original tree. We have had several of them as they don't seem to thrive here. So what we've done is make a clone from that original tree.”

Doris Fanelli, chief of cultural resources for the National Park Service, says the effort to keep the tree alive is one of love.

"It's our friend, we want it to flourish," she said.

When I was in grade school we had to write something about Arbor Day. I wrote a play called Moontree for Arbor Day where I went to the moon, got a tree and brought it home to plant on earth. I won a prize for imagination because at that time no one realized how close we were to going to the moon much less bringing back a tree to plant on earth.