Articles

Arbor Day Speaks For The Trees

04/05/2021 23:07

 

Master Gardner, Julie Barnes

In the month of April, Arbor Day is celebrated here in Pennsylvania. We recognize it as a day where

people are encouraged to plant and care for trees. In the United States all states have an official

Arbor Day observed on different dates to coincide with their area's optimal planting time for native

trees. Florida and Louisiana celebrate it as early as January while Hawaii or South Carolina observes

it as late as November or December. So, where did the idea come from for this tree dedicated

holiday? And, if you decide to honor Arbor Day by planting a tree, what are points to consider.

Arbor Day originated through politician and journalist, Julius Sterling Morton. After moving from

Detroit, Michigan to Nebraska in 1854 he encountered a place with wide open areas and virtually no

trees. This shadeless prairie was really hot in the summer offering few windbreaks to prevent soil from

blowing everywhere. After settling onto 160 treeless acres, Morton planted thousands of trees such as

cottonwoods, evergreens, beeches, and fruit trees labeling his homestead the Morton "Ranche.” He

then decided to encourage other people into tree planting by spreading the word in speeches, or by

using his newspaper editor position to extend agricultural information that emphasized trees. Morton

declared, “People need to plant many, many trees as a blessing to the generations who should succeed

us.” At a Nebraska State Board of Agriculture meeting on January 4, 1872, he proposed a holiday to

plant trees on April 10, 1872. This was known as the first "Arbor Day" where prizes were awarded to

the counties and individuals who planted the most trees totaling up to about one million trees being

introduced. By 1885, Arbor Day become a legal holiday in Nebraska and was celebrated on Morton’s

birthday of April 22. It was eventually changed to the last Friday in April where our state of

Pennsylvania observes it as well. Originally, several members of the Nebraska State Board of

Agriculture favored calling this day Sylvan Day, which means "wooded" but Morton argued that

sylvan refers only to forest trees and that the name Arbor Day was more inclusive, covering forest trees

and fruit trees. Today, a wide range of events occur on this day including communal tree planting

ceremonies, as well as educational activities where schools are encouraged to plan lessons around the

theme of trees.

Some of us plant trees to celebrate an important event while others plant them for design interest,

shade, wind protection, wildlife habitat, or for the fruit they will provide. A single, well placed tree will

impact a yard more than any other landscaping item and is one of the biggest garden investments

that can be made. It is therefore imperative to choose the right tree for the right place to ensure a

prolonged lifespan of beauty, shade, and many other benefits. Proper growing conditions should

guarantee that each tree always has potential for thee.

"Other holidays repose upon the past;

Arbor Day proposes for the future."–Julius Sterling Morton

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