Arbor Day

April 24, 2015

Belated Happy Arbor Day

I don't know where the time went, but Arbor Day really snuck up on me this year. It shouldn't have, because with the help of fourth graders from Tekamah and Herman, we planted four new trees at the football field parking lot north of Tekamah last week.

A funny thing happened as I was sharing the history of Arbor Day and how we plant trees for the future. I told the 4th graders to remember which tree they planted that day so when they came back for a football game their senior year in high school, they could park in the shade of the tree they were going to plant that day. One young lady who stood all of maybe four foot tall stared at me through squinting eyes, (reminiscent of Clint Eastwood, right before he'd say "Go ahead, make my day!")  and stated emphatically, "Track meet!" (My response, "Yes, you're right!")

Anyway, since last Friday was Arbor Day, I thought it might be interesting to share some things you might not know about Arbor Day. Here are the three things I think set Arbor Day apart from all other holidays.

First, all of our other holidays observe something that happened in the past, Arbor Day looks to the future. When we plant a tree on Arbor Day, it looks nice that day, but we are really planting the tree for the benefits it will provide in the years ahead.

Second, Arbor Day is observed in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and at least 40 other countries around the world, but unlike other holidays, it is observed on many different days throughout the year. (More on that later.)

And finally, Arbor Day has its "roots" in Nebraska.

J. Sterling Morton was born in New York and attended college in Michigan. After graduation, he moved to Nebraska and described his new home as a "treeless prairie." As editor of the newspaper in Nebraska City, he proposed a tree planting holiday to the State Board of Agriculture in 1872. The first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska on April 10 that year and more than a million trees were planted across the state.

In 1885, Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska and was moved to April 22, Morton's birthday. It remained on April 22 until 1989, when the day Arbor Day is observed in Nebraska was changed to the last Friday in April.

Arbor Day is observed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, when it is observed will vary because the day frequently coincides with the optimum time to plant trees in that geographic area and this will vary greatly between states. Arbor Day, or a similar holiday such as Tree Planting Day, is also observed in 40 other countries. Japan was the first country, other than the United States, to observe Arbor Day, starting in the late 1800's.

Now here is some interesting Arbor Day trivia...

–¢        The earliest Arbor Day observation in the United States is in Florida and Louisiana on the third Friday in January.
–¢        South Carolina observes Arbor Day on the first Friday in December, the latest it is observed in the U.S.
–¢        The most popular date for observing Arbor Day is the last Friday in April, when Nebraska, 23 other states and the District of Columbia observe it.
–¢        Two states have two state trees, Nevada (Singleleaf Pinyon Pine and Bristlecone Pine) and California (Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia).
–¢        Two states have nut trees as their state tree, Ohio (Ohio Buckeye) and Texas (Pecan). (You can make your own joke here!)
–¢        The cottonwood is Nebraska's state tree which is also the state tree for Kansas and Wyoming.
–¢        And finally, the most popular state tree is the sugar maple which is the state tree for four states... New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

For more information on selecting and planting trees for a windbreak, wildlife habitat, an orchard, or your home landscape, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.