Did this tree in Mercer County go to the Moon?

PRINCETON, WV (WOAY) – A tree in Mercer County may have been planted from a seed that went to the Moon. 

In 1971, a joint operation between the United States Forestry Service and NASA sought to perform experiments on seeds during Apollo 14. Many of those seeds were brought back to Earth and planted throughout the country.

One sycamore maple seed was planted in Mercer County at the former forestry center, but it was thought to have been removed decades ago. However, County Commissioner Bill Archer believes that it was an error and the tree may still be standing, just without documentation. 

“This tree was planted on October 18 of 1975. They were told that it had been mowed down and forgotten about. Well, a sycamore maple tree stands in that particular area right now,” Archer said. 

The supposed sycamore maple ‘moon tree’ (left) sits outside the former forestry center. 

The county knows for certain that one of these ‘moon trees’ was in fact planted at the forestry center during a ceremony hosted by then U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd. There is even documentation of the ceremony’s program when the tree was planted in 1975.

Unfortunately, it’s thought that the seedling was accidentally destroyed during lawn maintenance decades ago. Now, official documentation of all the moon trees and their locations from NASA do not indicate any being located in West Virginia. But there are still many that believe this is a genuine error, and the moon tree is still standing where it was originally planted 45 years ago.

If the tree currently outside the former forestry center is in fact the same sycamore maple that went to the Moon, then it would be the only one of its kind in West Virginia.