City Cast

What’s the Deal With Philly’s Moon Tree?

Brittany Valentine
Brittany Valentine
Posted on December 13, 2022   |   Updated on June 22
Bicentennial Moon Tree plaque in Washington Square Park. (Madskills421/Flickr)

Bicentennial Moon Tree plaque in Washington Square Park. (Madskills421/Flickr)

If you’ve ever been to Washington Square Park, you’ve probably seen the Moon Tree Plaque. But what exactly is the moon tree? It has a fascinating history, so buckle up!

In 1971, astronaut Stuart Roosa took a voyage to the moon on Apollo XIV carrying with him hundreds of tree seeds. Roosa, who was a former member of the Forest Service, thought that he and NASA could help plant these seeds across the country upon his return.  

In this way, they could scatter little pieces of “the moon” across the U.S to honor the space exploration program. Guess where the first moon tree was planted? Yep, right here in Philadelphia!  

In the mid 1970s the small sycamore tree was planted a block south of Independence Hall, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the United States.

Unfortunately, the original tree died in 2008 and was replaced by a clone from the Morris Arboretum in 2011. That clone has withered away as well. Now all that remains is the Bicentennial Plaque which reads “Honoring Earth’s green world of trees.”  

Roosa passed away in 1994 and the Moon Tree Foundation was created to keep his legacy alive. NASA has been keeping track of the trees and published a list of more than 60 first-generation plants that are still live. Most of them are in the states, but some were sent to Brazil and are still thriving. Now you know! 🌳🌝

Hey Philly

Want to know what's happening in Philadelphia? Sign up for our free newsletter, Hey Philly. Packed with local news, curated event recs, local life hacks, and more, it's your daily toolkit for getting the most out of the city you love.

Philly, Explained

See All

The latest in Philly