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Botanicult Fiction: The Arboretum Aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise

May 20, 2020

By Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Science, Royal Botanical Gardens

Star Trek hardly needs an introduction. It began over 50 years ago with the TV voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701, captained by James Tiberius Kirk. Lesser known is that the original Enterprise, the work of designer Matt Jeffries, included an arboretum in the engineering section of the ship.

The idea of an arboretum aboard a spaceship on Star Trek didn’t end with Kirk’s Enterprise. The much larger Enterprise NCC-1701D of Star Trek: The Next Generation included an even bigger arboretum. Like many of today’s arboreta, these space-borne botanical gardens were intended for both research and recreation, a bit of living green in the vast cold of space. These arboreta figured in several episodes of the various Star Trek series in scenes set amid lush vegetation.

And should you think that having living plants in space is just a science fiction fantasy, consider that plants are growing right now in orbit around earth aboard the International Space Station, in a special chamber called Veggie.

Image: Captain James Kirk (William Shatner) and Dr. Miranda Jones (Dianna Muldaur) share a moment about the USS Enterprise in the 1968 Star Trek episode “Is there in Truth No Beauty?” Star Trek television is owned by CBS Television Studios.

Botanicult Fiction is an affectionate review of plants in pop culture viewed through the lens of plant nerds and curated for your reading or viewing pleasure during this challenging time of self isolation