Did You Know?: Space trees

A sycamore tree growing on the south side of Lilly Hall was germinated on space shuttle Atlantis in 1988. The plaque at the base of the tree states: “This tree was grown in the Department of Forestry from a seed which orbited the Earth on the United States space shuttle Atlantis STS 27 from December 2-6, 1988, as part of a 4-H project. It is planted in honor of the 1989 diamond anniversary of Extension Service to the people of Indiana by the Purdue University School of Agriculture and the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology. Planted April 19, 1990.”

From white oaks and black cherry trees to Turkish filberts and golden rains, Purdue’s West Lafayette campus has more than 8,000 trees — six of which began sprouting in space.

After returning from the 1984 space shuttle Discovery flight with 200 tree sprouts, Purdue alumnus and astronaut Charles Walker donated five sweet gum trees, referred to as “shuttle gums,” to the University. Those five trees were germinated in space and raised in Purdue’s nursery until they grew large enough to be planted at the following locations:

* South side of the Forestry Products Building
* Northwest corner of Grissom Hall 
* Northwest corner of the Electrical Engineering Building
* Southeast corner of Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering
* Pickett Park

Also, a sycamore tree growing on the south side of Lilly Hall was germinated on space shuttle Atlantis in 1988. Purdue alumnus and astronaut Jerry Ross and his wife planted the “space tree” in 1990 in honor of the diamond anniversary of Purdue Extension.

The sycamore and one shuttle gum are included on the Purdue arboretum walking tour. The sycamore is No. 5 on the green trail, and the “shuttle gum” is No. 24 on the gold trail.

For more information on the trees of Purdue, visit www.purdue.edu/buildings_grounds/trees/website/index.html.

Source: Tim Detzner, campus arborist.


The Purdue Arboretum, 625 Agriculture Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010 USA

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