A giant astronaut lives only yards away from Bambu Batu in the heart of Mission Plaza in downtown San Luis Obispo. The Moon Tree, a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), was planted as a 55-inch tall seedling just upstream from the Broad Street Bridge near Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on July 30, 1976.

The majestic tree began its life as a seedling stuffed into a cylinder taken on the NASA/USFS mission to the lunar surface in 1971. As a part of crew member Stuart Roosa’s personal kit, the seeds joined others that were plucked from their earthly homes around the country, and launched into space aboard Apollo 14. After returning to their home planet, they were donated to the USFS and allowed to germinate.  Most of the seeds bequeathed to the Placerville, CA and the Gulfport, MI stations sprouted successfully, and the USFS collected between 420 and 450 saplings from seeds and cuttings after a few years. They were planted in locations across the US as a part of the nation’s 1976 bicentennial celebration.

Most of the species of trees, predominantly sourced from southern and western parts of the country, were grown alongside normal saplings as a control. After decades of observation, there have been no recordings of discernible differences between the Moon Trees and their counterparts. Nevertheless, San Luis Obispo is proud to have a living relic of the space age in the heart of town.

To our knowledge, they have yet to send any bamboo species into outer space. And that’s a bit of a shame, because as we know, bamboo is probably the most amazing plant on the planet.

Redwood trees in Dortmund Germany
California Redwoods grow in many places, including Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Fred Hornaday)

More about Bamboo and San Luis Obispo

If you’re looking to learn more about the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo or the incredible subfamily of grasses known as bamboo, check out some of the following articles.

FEATURE PHOTO: Sequoia sempervirens foliage and cones, by Ilya Katsnelson (Wiki Commons)