The New Jersey Forest Service, Community Forestry Program in cooperation with the New Jersey Community Forestry Council and with the help of the Demarest Shade Tree Commission provided White Pine seeds to New Jersey native, Astronaut Gregory T. Linteris, Ph.D., to be part of a Seed Germination Kit that traveled aboard the United States Space Shuttle Columbia during the flight of April 4, 1997. This was the 22nd flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the eighty-third overall flight of the Space Shuttle program. Although the flight was cut short, the seeds traveled at 17,500 mph for a distance of 1.5 million miles. Once the seeds were returned to the New Jersey Forest Service, they were germinated at the program’s greenhouse in Jackson, New Jersey as part of the Heritage Tree Program.
Since 1996 the Community Forestry greenhouse has grown almost a million tube tree seedlings for outreach during Arbor Day, and 50,000 Atlantic white cedar cuttings for reforestation efforts. Of particular note about seeds in space ~ the germination rate of Eastern White Pine seeds is usually around 10 –14 days. The seeds that traveled on the Space Shuttle germinated in half that time! We believe that this was the first effort to have tree seeds experience the weightlessness of space. The White Pine Trees grown from seed are also a tribute to the seven astronaut crew of the 28th mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia who lost their lives in service to our country on February 1, 2003 during re-entry. The New Jersey Community Forestry Program will document the location of these trees to add to the list of noteworthy trees across the State of New Jersey.
The Space Shuttle White Pine is located in the Jerome Outdoor Classroom.