As the famous cherry blossoms bloom in Washington, D.C. this week, a cherry tree in Japan also bloomed. And that is quite the anomaly.
A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a cherry tree grown from a seed that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected — and with very surprising flowers.
The four-year-old sapling — grown from a cherry stone that spent time aboard the International Space Station (ISS) — burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature’s normal schedule.
Its early blooming baffled Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing.
It normally takes 10 years for a tree to produce its first blossoms from a seed. The seeds (called “stones”) were part of an experiment on the International Space Station in November 2008. The seeds circled the globe 4,100 times before returning a year later.
What caused the seeds to grow quickly and have odd flowers is unknown but obviously it is possibly the result of the gravity or cosmic ray exposure differences from space travel. Sadly there were no control seeds which makes this a rather inconclusive experiment.
Plants have been grown in space several times. Seeds were sent on very early missions to space as experiments. Park Seed company is currently selling space-exposed basil seeds. However, this experiment includes a control package of seeds grown on earth. See more on Park’s 25 years of experiments with seeds in space.