Scientists are baffled at a rather unexpected outcome of the trip of some 250 seeds to the space. After the trip, a few cherry trees have blossomed years ahead of their regular schedule, with no explanation for the phenomenon so far.
The seeds were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) as far back as 2008. Among them were a specific variety of cherry seeds of which 14 were planted in Japan once they were brought back from the space trip. Typically, this variety takes nearly 10 years to sprout and since they were planted in 2010, they were expected to blossom in 2020.
But much to the surprise of the scientists, many of these cherry trees have blossomed already. It is unclear what exactly has caused this highly unusual phenomenon. Some have speculated that this may have something to do with the space trip while others forward a different theory which involves more earthly factors.
According to a researcher at University of Tsukuba, Kaori Tomita-Yokotani, “There is the possibility that exposure to stronger cosmic rays accelerated the process of sprouting and overall growth.”
Tomita-Yokotani further speculates that unobserved cross-pollination of the trees may have resulted in the early bloom, although scientists are still trying to substantiate these theories. Meanwhile, she admits that ‘From a scientific point of view, we can only say we don’t know why.’
What deepens this mystery is that some of these early bloomers have only five petals, whereas the parent tree has 30 petals. This may suggest more strongly in favor of the cross-pollination theory, but we will have to wait for the researchers to bring out the final verdict.