Scientists Ponder Over Mystery Of Early Blossoming 'Space Cherry Tree'


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In November 2008, 265 pits collected from various cherry trees from 14 locations across Japan, were sent to the International Space Station. The endeavor was part of an educational and cultural project to demonstrate to kids, how seeds can continue to live and grow, even after a jaunt to space. The seeds that circled the globe 4,100 times during their four-month mission, returned to earth in March 2009. While some were kept for lab tests most, were returned to their original locations.

Among them were seeds from a 1,250-year-old cherry tree called 'Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura' that resides in Japan's ancient Ganjoji temple. While the Buddhist monks at the temple carefully planted the space-returned seeds, they did not expect much to happen. That's because not a single seed from this ancient tree, believed to be the world's oldest, had ever sprouted.

To their surprise, within four years, the cherry stone has not only turned into a healthy, 4-meter-tall sapling, but even, begun to blossom - a full six years before anyone expected it to. That's because this species of cherry trees take at least ten years to blossom. Also, this is not the only 'space' cherry pit that has sprouted and blossomed so rapidly. Four others in various locations, have done the same. Among them is one in the city of Hokuto, about 115 kilometers from Tokyo. It bore 11 flowers by the time it turned two - a full six years before any blossoms were expected.

Scientists speculate that the faster growth may have something to do with the seeds getting exposed to stronger cosmic rays. But since the researchers were not conducting an experiment to create faster growing seeds, they cannot be sure. Kaori Tomita-Yokotani, a researcher at the University of Tsukub, thinks that the rapid growth could also be caused by cross-pollination with another species.

What's even more interesting is that the nine flowers currently growing on the 'Chujo-hime-seigan-zakura' offspring, comprise of just five petals each - very different from its parent tree whose flowers bear thirty petals apiece. Again, researchers can only speculate as to the reason. They believe that the space trip could have reverted the seeds back to how ancient cherry blossoms used to be. Alternatively, it could also be because the tree has blossomed so immaturely.

While further research will have to be done to verify what if anything happened to the seeds, even the notion that space travel may induce faster growth, has researchers contemplating the possibility of establishing large-scale agricultural plants in outer space. Meanwhile, the monks at the Ganjoli temple are just thrilled to have a healthy offspring, from the world's oldest cherry tree.


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  • I love treesover 4 years
    I love trees
    • felineactivist
      felineactivistover 4 years
      Oh, wow... Imagine if you were "born" in space! So if you want a cherry blossom in two years, send some seeds into space and your blossoms will arrive much faster than you expected them to! So fascinating!
      • pokemongoplaya
        pokemongoplayaover 5 years
        i love japan's mountians
        • Theoalmost 6 years
          i like trees
          • DABalmost 6 years
            this is very interesting to read :)
            • boss almost 6 years
              cool video
              • sup geasalmost 6 years
                the video is very cool
                • ANAKIN SKY over 6 years
                  the BEST VIDEO EVER.
                  • torifs
                    torifsover 6 years
                    this is pretty cool
                    • #1over 6 years
                      tis is an area of science witch is biology and astronomy. Atleast thats what i believe. Reply?
                      • felineactivist
                        felineactivistover 4 years
                        "Biology" = Botany Pretty close. Great! I'm going to become an entomologist, which is a kind of biologist who goes there right on the spot to study the animals instead of staying in some boring lab.