Sakura from space bloom early

Just as I was feeling nostalgic about cherry blossoms from La Carmina’s recent post about hanami, I came across an interesting piece of science news.  Some trees grown from cherry stones that were taken up into orbit came into bloom this year, which is about six years earlier than expected. There’s more to the story though.

Back in 2008, students collected stones from cherry trees from fourteen places in Japan.  One of the trees was the famous Chujo-hime Seigan sakura tree.  According to legend, Chujo-hime was a princess who was left to die in the mountains by her stepmother.  Buddhist nuns rescued her, but she became ill one day.  She prayed to Kannon at Ganjou Temple and soon recovered.  As thanks, she planted the tree that became the Chujo-hime Seigan sakura tree.  The real one is said to be 1,250 years old, and not once has a stone from it sprouted before.

However, when the International Space Station commander Koichi Wakata returned with the stones, a handful that were planted at Ganjou Temple.  This year, one has not only sprouted, but also bloomed.  To add to the strangeness, the nine flowers had five petals each, instead of the expected thirty. None of the articles I read specified the species of sakura, but there are some that do have over twenty petal per flower.  I’m more used to the ones with five petals because that’s what I saw in Japan.
Three other locations have produced blossoms, and one tree in Hokuto bloomed two years ago.

Cross-pollination is a possible explanation for this anomaly.  Some researchers suggest it was the influence of cosmic rays that altered the appearance and growth.  Unfortunately there was no control group so no conclusions can be drawn.  It does open doors for biological and astrological research.

“Cherry Blossom Grown from Space Seeds a Bit Weird” – Discovery News
“Princess Chujo Seigan Cherry Tree” by Ritsuko Kikui – JapanTravel
“Space Travel Makes Cherry Trees Bloom Years Early” by Stephen Luntz –


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