Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rocket Riley, The Apollo Moon Tree Man


New Moon Trees! And I do mean brand new Moon Trees. As in... SAPLINGS. Intrigued? So was I.

I've documented many Apollo 14 Moon Trees since NASA started re-cataloging them many years ago, gratified to see many on the west coast and on the east coast!

Sycamore Moon Tree Seed Pods

 Each state in the USA was issued two saplings in America's bicentennial year. In addition to those planted just after the Apollo era, many people have re-seeded second generation trees with seed pods harvested from the full-grown specimens from the 1970s!

Of course, it helps if you live very near a Moon Tree.  Greg "Rocket" Riley, a native of Franklin, Massachusetts, has the very good fortune to live near the Moon Tree in Holliston, MA.  Their treasured tree is a flourishing American Sycamore (plantanus occidentalis), conveniently beside the police station -- so it doesn't suffer the "sign stealing" issue many other Moon Trees do!

Hollison, MA Apollo Moon Tree!
Photo Credit: Jason Major of Lights In The Dark

Each autumn, Greg picks a few new seeds from around the tree... and has sometimes had police come out to ask what he's doing!  Ah, just gathering sycamore droppings!  I visited his home and garden a few towns over, where he plants the pods in various places around his front gardens, varying the amounts of sun and shade, to see what grows best where.

Altogether, he has more than a dozen tiny new trees of varying sizes all around his property. Most are still in pots, alongside other botanical experiments. How I envy people with that Green Thumb talent!  He is truly ensuring that the Apollo Moon Tree legacy lives on into the next generation.

Rocket Riley with his tallest Moon Tree sapling

I asked Greg if I could write about his talented botanical activities on my blog, and also add his Moon Tree to the master list -- though, of course, for that, it needs to be planted in the ground. He promptly prepared a spot on his lawn, and carefully moved one of the potted saplings into freshly turned dirt.

So I was there for the birth of a new Moon Tree, and I'm certain Greg will take excellent care of it as it grows. Next year around this time, I put a reminder on my calendar to ask him for a new photograph, so we can see the progress of the new sycamore.

The newest Apollo Moon Tree!

Hail to Rocket Riley, keeper of the Moon Trees!  Next time you pass through New England, be sure to visit his growing tree farm. To see the entire collection of photographs, click on any of the photos above, or click here to see the Pillownaut Picasa Moon Tree gallery.

If you know the location of any living trees or seeders, or where they were or are being planted, curators at the National Space Science Data Center would love to hear from you. Join the Waymarkers Moon Tree Group to help search for more trees, and email NASA if you find one!