Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

Moon Tree at Tilden

A redwood tree.

Looks like any other coastal redwood tree, doesn’t it?

So, what’s so special about THIS one?

THIS tree was started from a seedling,

which was started from a seed,

which went around the moon 34 times.

Let’s back up. When on January 31, 1971 Apollo 14’s Lunar Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa took off, he had packed away in his personal gear nearly 500 seeds of loblolly pine, sycamore, redwood, Douglas fir and sweetgum trees. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the idea was to see if the prolonged weightlessness of seeds would ultimately affect their growth to mature trees—a good thing to know “should colonization of other planets become necessary.” A control group of seeds stayed back on Earth for comparison.

Once back home, supposedly more than 80% of the seeds were germinated in some U.S. Forest Service nurseries. (After years of observation, by the way, no discernable difference was detected.) Then in or about the bicentennial year 1976, “Moon Tree” seedlings were distributed throughout the U.S. and ceremoniously planted with the reading of a congratulatory letter from President Gerald R. Ford.

Among sites that requested seedlings were botanical gardens, state capitols and courthouses, state parks, state universities, nature centers, schools, libraries, and space science properties. Some areas made their own signs marking locations of the trees, while other trees bear no marking at all. The still-alive sycamore planted at Camp Koch Girl Scout Camp in Indiana bears the hand-painted sign “. . . Long live our beautiful Moon Tree.”

Precise records were not kept with regard to the seedling distribution. But a man named David Williams has made it his own personal mission to track down and catalogue the whereabouts of these seedling/trees. Williams has a list of those he knows about at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html. If you know of a Moon Tree planting not listed (dead or alive), he would like to hear about it dave.williams@nasa.gov.

Now, “Half-Moon Trees” are being grown naturally from the discarded and cross-pollinated seeds of original Moon Trees. If you are so inclined, check search engines for those who are selling these babies and also for those who are grafting and cloning the original Moon Trees.

Photo credit: Thanks to Susan Peck who recently photographed this now tall Moon Tree at the Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley, CA

Nancy R. Peck


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Feeling ambivalent about snow lately?

Well, get into a comfortable lamenting position, look forward to la melting, and I’ll proceed to tell you how snow is beneficial. Microbial ecologists are doing just that as we speak. Take it from them, snow is a good thing. 

Here’s why:

  • A blanket of snow acts as an insulation to your garden soil. I suppose that means keeping warmth in and keeping cold temperatures out.
  • Snow adds nitrogen to soil, “the poor man’s fertilizer.” A slow melting of snow will add nitrogen in a time-release fashion and benefit your garden. (A fast melt leads to floods and run-off benefiting no one and no water way.)
  • As long as there is snow, there are chemical exchanges going on in the soil underneath and microbes are fueling chemical decomposition. Without the snow, this action slows or stops in a bare frozen soil.
  • Yes, while a heavy storm may cause the loss of some tree branches, perennials and fragile tree roots are actually stressed less when covered with snow, and bulbs stay put with less soil heave.
  • And one last thing— look forward to nights of below zero to kill off tree-devouring pests moving in from the South. 

I hope this information helps, but I’ll understand if you are still looking at your shovel as half full instead of half empty.

A good place to learn about all this is at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies located in  the mid-Hudson River, NY area (Millbrook). 

The Institute is dedicated to the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge about ecosystems. Much of its acreage has been set aside for scientific research but the public may visit. See their website to learn how you can experience it. http://www.ecostudies.org/index.html

Nancy R. Peck

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Lowe’s has a million dollars burning a hole in its apron-pocket. The Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation has announced it will donate a million dollars to four environmentally focused charities. But it is counting on the public at large to vote. How that money should be distributed among four different charities is the question.

Each of the following charities will receive $100,000 each. Great. But there’s a remaining $600,000 to be allocated to these same organizations. It is up to the voting public to decide how that $600,000 will be distributed among the four.  I found it a really tough decision, as each is worthwhile.

You can vote every day, once a day (per e-mail address) until midnight January 21. Click on the link below.

Which organization will get your vote?



Over 32 million acres of the world’s forests are lost each year. American Forests plants millions of trees every year and educates the public about the tremendous environmental benefits of healthy forests. “Since 2000, Lowe’s has worked with our suppliers to ensure that today’s forests can be enjoyed for years to come through the practice of conservation and protection, and American Forests helps extend that commitment.”


(KAB) is the nation’s largest volunteer-based community improvement organization combining education and stewardship to create cleaner communities and public spaces. Each spring The Great American Clean-up helps improve more than 33,700 communities. “Reducing waste in its communities is at the heart of Lowe’s recycling strategies, with proactive programs for battery, appliances and packing materials already in place.”


is the only national nonprofit supporting America’s nearly 400 national parks. Help protect these national treasures. “The Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation’s main priorities are education and community improvement projects across the United States, including public spaces and recreation areas.”  

drinking water


One in eight people don’t have clean water. Water.org is a nonprofit organization that has provided access to safe water and sanitation to hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean over the past twenty years. “Funds awarded from the Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation will support Water.org’s long-term development efforts in Haiti to increase the level of access to sustainable, safe water and sanitation services. Lowe’s is committed to explaining benefits of water conservation in stores and online.”

CLICK HERE AND VOTE TODAY Lowe’s Charitable & Educational Foundation

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recycling Christmas tree

In a previous post I was lamenting about needle-drop. As much as I love trees and hate to see the holidays end, under my breath I look forward to the day when the holiday fir-ball and its few remaining needles can be put out on the curb. I’ve dutifully remove all ornaments, wire hooks, tinsel, stand screws, wreath wires—essentially anything that could bollix up the chipping machine. There the Poor Thing patiently waits for the DPW to take it away. From the curb it goes on to its next life in the form of . . . smithereens.  

In my limited suburban experience, discarded Christmas trees have gotten hauled off to a local landfill lot and are made into mulch—used to pave a city or state park trail, other municipal property or used at a playground. Though I’ve seen instances of overusing mulch, it is good for weed control and it does not introduce invasive elements or seeds.

But with each year comes a new idea for recycling the roughly 30 million once-living Christmas trees sold each year. In San Francisco and Burlington, VT for instance, much mulch is used as biomass fuel, generating electricity by heating water and creating steam. Christmastree.org lists some of the ways trees are being repurposed in various communities.

Unchipped whole trees have been used to rebuild wetlands, and stabilize fish habitats along lake or river shorelines. They may also serve as shelters and perches for birds and other wildlife. Christmas trees have also been used for management of river delta sedimentation and for the prevention of beach erosion and coastal sand dune restoration.

And here’s a random curiosity. What is happening to this year’s huge Rockefeller Center tree in New York City? In keeping with the three previous years of “tradition,” the tree will be milled into lumber which will then be used in house building by Habitat for Humanity. The wood will go to housing in the Newburgh, NY area near where the tree grew.

If treecycling chipping is not in your area and you’d like to start a program, see the several how-to articles found by exploring the Earth911.com website.  Some good suggestions can be found including the importance of promoting the event. A lot of treecycling programs come with clever themes and signage to gather interest. In New York City the program is called “Mulchfest.” The Keep Georgia Beautiful organization uses the title “Bring One for the Chipper.” My favorite? The drop-off signage at Prospect Park—“Thank you very Mulch.” 

Nancy R. Peck

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Hampton Court Palace

Mistletoe at Hampton Court Palace

Mistletoe is a hemiparasite that embellishes trees such as this one at Hampton Court Palace where Henry VIII once lived. Hampton Court Palace has a renowned maze and extensive gardens open to the public. Hampton Court Palace is southwest of London. A public ice skating rink here is open between late November and early January.

Link to Hampton Court Palace here.  Link to Hampton Court Palace Gardens here.

Photo by Jonathan Cardy, Wikimedia Creative Commons

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Christmas tree

Does it seem like the conifers that you bring into the house are getting drier and drier—or is it my imagination? No sooner does the tree get into the house that the needles begin their fall-off—even as you’re cramming the trunk into its water trough or gingerly placing ornaments on the tree. A real indication that the days are numbered for this already dead tree. 

I keep my fingers crossed that the tree doesn’t lose its needles in unison in front of everyone. I know it is going to happen shortly. Will it be right after the last-gasp Vacuum of the Year? Or in the middle of the New Year’s Eve Epic Party of the Year. The anticipation rather reminds me of Cinderella waiting to lose her gown at the stroke of midnight EST. 

If you happened to be listening to National Public Radio on December 10 you might have heard an interview with Dr. Raj Lada, founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. His research aims to increase needle retention where growing fir trees is a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Good news, Dr. Lada is said to be on the verge of doubling the life of the cut Christmas tree. At the facility they are working on a method that will block the release of ethylene. In basic terms, this would be like slowing or halting the ripening of a banana. 

His remedy isn’t here yet but in the meantime, I deduced these recommendations from the interview:

  • The trauma of transport can trigger the start of the ethylene process. You might want to buy from producers closest to you, cutting down when you select it. In transport—the less shaking the better.
  • If you do buy from a retailer, hope that they’ve been keeping them in a water vessel.
  • Once you have your specimen home, re-cut the trunk at least one inch.
  • Lights alter a tree’s metabolic function and they are also spectrum sensitive. White lights might be preferable and don’t turn them off at night. “When the tree is in the dark it will start “respiring” more, using all its carbohydrates too soon.”
  • Keep your tree stand filled with water, checking it daily. A glycerin product in the water is pointless as it will not reach the necessary height due to its viscosity. Also adding sugar to the water or fertilizer will have little effect.
  • Don’t use products that close stomata as they will shut down the carbon dioxide exchange needed for photosynthesis. It needs to have the sugar synthesized every day.
  • Keep the tree in a cooler room if possible (but not at freezing temperatures). Keep it away from the kitchen.
  • Finally, keep fruit away from the tree. Fruit gives off ethylene.

I wonder how Cinderella would deal with needle-drop? I guess she’d just get out her dustpan every hour on the hour. Or maybe she would have thrown in the towel and had a tree crafted of glass instead.

Here’s the transcript of the NPR interview with Dr. Lada.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Creative Commons

 Nancy R. Peck

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