Have you ever seen Montgomery’s ‘Moon Tree’?

Have you ever seen Montgomery’s ‘Moon Tree’?
A marble plaque reveals the secret of Alabama's Capitol "Moon Tree," an otherwise ordinary loblolly pine. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There are plenty of trees on the Alabama Capitol Complex, but Goat Hill has a special tree that’s, well, out of this world. It’s the state’s very own “Moon Tree.”

As the nation prepares to celebrate 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the moon, we’re looking back, err, up at a loblolly pine with a story of its own.

Alabama is home to four "moon trees" named for seeds that were taken to the moon aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. This tree is planted at the Capitol.
Alabama is home to four "moon trees" named for seeds that were taken to the moon aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. This tree is planted at the Capitol. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The otherwise nondescript tree was grown from seeds that journeyed to the moon, then ended up in the ground at the end of historic Dexter Avenue five years after coming back to Earth.

A marble plaque beneath the tree reveals the secret. It bloomed from seeds sent up on the Apollo 14 mission in 1971, not the Apollo 11 mission that first sent Man to the moon.

A marble plaque reveals the secret of Alabama's Capitol "Moon Tree," an otherwise ordinary loblolly pine.
A marble plaque reveals the secret of Alabama's Capitol "Moon Tree," an otherwise ordinary loblolly pine. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The seedling was given to then-Gov. George C. Wallace by the Alabama Forestry Commission and the U.S. Forest Service on April 19, 1976.

Wallace accepted the gift in a special ceremony that coincided with the signing of a proclamation he had signed that designated the week of May 16-22 of 1976 as Forest Conservation and Recreation Week in Alabama.

The tree was planted that Monday on the Capitol lawn as a reminder of man’s flight into space and its relationship to the forests of America. It’s still there to this day, being kept company next to the statue of Albert Patterson, assassinated in 1954 shortly after clinching the Democratic nomination to run for state attorney general.

A statue of Albert Patterson flanks the "Moon Tree" on the Alabama Capitol grounds. The tree came from seeds taken aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971.
A statue of Albert Patterson flanks the "Moon Tree" on the Alabama Capitol grounds. The tree came from seeds taken aboard the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

If you can’t make it to Montgomery to see the Capitol Moon Tree, there are three others with the same story in other parts of the state.

A Sycamore was planted at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in Feb. 1976. And there are two other loblolly pines, one at the Pioneer Museum of Alabama in Troy, planted in Aug. 1976, and one at Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller, in Tuscumbia, planted in Oct. 1976.

There are dozens of the trees known to be planted around the country, many of which can be found here.

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