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'Cherry tree from space' mystery baffles Japan with surprising bloom

Published on Apr 11, 2014 1:21 PM
This handout picture from the Chujo-Hime-Seigan-Zakura Preservation Society (CHSZ Preservation Society) taken on April 3, 2014, shows a cherry tree in bloom, grown from a cherry pit that spent time onboard the International Space Station, at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu city, central Japan. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP 

TOKYO (AFP) - A cosmic mystery is uniting monks and scientists in Japan after a cherry tree grown from a seed that orbited the Earth for eight months bloomed years earlier than expected - and with very surprising flowers.

The four-year-old sapling - grown from a cherry stone that spent time aboard the International Space Station (ISS) - burst into blossom on April 1, possibly a full six years ahead of Mother Nature's normal schedule.

Its early blooming baffled Buddhist brothers at the ancient temple in central Japan where the tree is growing.

"We are amazed to see how fast it has grown," Masahiro Kajita, chief priest at the Ganjoji temple in Gifu, told AFP by telephone.

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