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Newton's Space Saplings

Trees grown from seeds that went into space planted to celebrate science

  • A celestial tree with roots that intertwine with Isaac Newton’s discovery of gravity, is to be planted in one of London’s eight Royal Parks.

London January 2020 - Bushy Park, a Site of Special Scientific Interest that receives over two million visits a year has been chosen to be the home of one of eight space saplings. The tree is derived from the pips of Isaac Newton’s apple tree, that were blasted into space with British astronaut Tim Peake in 2015.

The project is a collaboration between the UK Space Agency, National Trust and Kew Gardens, to inspire the next generation of scientists.

The Royal Parks, in partnership with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and The Friends of Bushy Park successfully bid for one of the eight saplings, that originate from the pips of the 400-year-old apple tree in Woolsthorpe Manor, that prompted Isaac Newton to think about gravity.

The apple tree will be protected by a domed metal cage that will double up as a ‘daytime planetarium.’ The structure will provide physical protection to the young tree from animals such as rabbits and parakeets and will accommodate educational activities both inside and outside of it. It will approximately measure 5 metres by 3.5 metres and will be designed by the local community to incorporate astronomy, physics, Isaac Newton and horticulture.

The sapling will be transferred to the state-of-the-art Hyde Park Super Nursery where it will be nurtured by horticultural experts until it is resilient enough to cope with the outdoor conditions in the Woodland Gardens in Bushy Park.

Over the next two years the project will engage with young people to help design the daytime planetarium and once built, NPL will use it as a base to deliver some of their outreach projects, such as giving young people the opportunity to meet scientists and engineers, and The Royal Parks will use the tree as a training tool to teach apprentices about propagation and arboriculture. The Friends of Bushy Park will be delivering walks and talks on the Sapling story and will also launch a fundraising appeal to cover some of the project's cost.

Bill Swan, Assistant Park Manager for Bushy Park said:

“We are immensely proud to be chosen to care for one of the eight space saplings. Trees are important in their own right because of their benefits to the environment but this particular one is special because it provides both a gateway to the past and to the future. Isaac Newton himself said that “if I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants,’ and we wish to inspire the next generation by giving them access to a range of experts such as scientists, engineers and horticulturalists, and providing a range of educational opportunities.”

Colin Muid, Chair of the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks said:

“The Friends are proud to have helped Bushy Park be selected to be custodian of one of the Space Saplings. Our joint project with NPL which we call Fruits of Genius, will be a wonderful addition to the historic rural space of Bushy Park, which we love and help conserve.”

Dr Pete Thompson FReng, CEO of the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), said:

“NPL is delighted to be working in partnership with our friends and neighbours, Bushy Park and the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks to share the heritage and story of this unique tree. We look forward to working together to continue our work to engage future generations with science and nature.”

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