In 2008, 265 seeds were taken to the International Space Station by Japanese astronauts. Upon their return to earth, they were planted in several locations throughout Japan.
The seeds were taken from an old tree outside the Buddhist temple in Gifu, central Japan, which is believed to be 1,250 years old.
One seed was planted near the temple and after fours years it is now blooming, which is six years earlier than would be expected. Interestingly, the tree’s flowers are unusual, containg five petals, rather than around 30 as their parent trees normally have.
The Chief priest at the Ganjoji temple, told the AFP that he is “amazed to see how fast it has grown.”
The seeds were planted at a total of 14 locations, and blooms have already developed in four locations.
Scientists and Buddhist monks have been puzzled at the rapid growth.
It is suspected, however, that the reason for the early flowering is that, “exposure to stronger cosmic rays accelerated the process of sprouting and overall growth,” according to Kaori Tomita-Yokotani, a plant physiologist at the University of Tsukuba, who took part in the project.