Sycamore tree at Gulfport school started life on the moon - - The News for South Mississippi

Sycamore tree at Gulfport school started life on the moon

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If you've ever passed by the Child Development Center school for exceptional children, you may not have even noticed a stately tree on its grounds.

Established in 1970, the Harrison County Child Development Center in Gulfport has cared for and taught thousands of children with disabilities from across the Coast.

It's founder and former principal who fought hard to create this exceptional school, Wilda Switzer, is also a longtime member of the Gulfport Garden Club who planned a special celebration of a historic tree.

"Seeds were taken by Apollo 14 to the moon on January 1971," Wilda Switzer said. "It's one of the few sycamores that were germinated. The seeds were taken, he walked out on the moon with them to see if it would have any effect on them, or if the trip to the moon would have any effect and it didn't."

A few years later, the seed had became a sapling, and with crossed fingers they planted its tiny roots in Gulfport.

"I remember it very well, about his tall. There it is there, battered by the storms, but it's still there."

This historic Sycamore has grown along with the precious children it has watched over for more than 40 years now.

Vicki Carter was one of Switzer's young teachers who is now the school's principal.

"There's a tremendous amount of history for these children," Carter said. "We plan a lot of activities in this garden area around this tree and the garden club that has done the flowers. We have Butterfly Day out here. We have Fall Festival out here, birthday parties."

Friday, Switzer also dedicated a new plaque to show all who come in the future the tree's rich history, as the children who know it best looked on.

"I just feel doggone good! Miss Vicki is carrying on and I see all the happy children and that's the reason we developed it and that's the reason I call them number one guests."

Ms. Switzer is working with the school district and Gulfport's arborist to take branches from the Apollo Sycamore and grow saplings to hopefully plant at all Harrison County schools.

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