April 18, 2019

Arbor Day in Nebraska

It seems like all I’ve talked about for the past month is follow-up to the devastating flooding we experienced this spring. Well, enough is enough, I wanted to write about something else this week and Arbor Day, my favorite holiday, came to mind.

Arbor Day has its “roots” in Nebraska. J. Sterling Morton moved to Nebraska from Michigan and he described Nebraska as a “treeless prairie.” 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 in Nebraska.

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 it was observed in Nebraska was changed to the last Friday in April. So Arbor Day in Nebraska will be this Friday, April 26.

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 over 40 other countries. Japan was the first country, other than the United States, to observe Arbor Day... starting in the late 1800's. Other tree planting festivals have been documented as early as 1594 in Spain.

So here’s some interesting tidbits and trivia about trees and Arbor Day.

  • ·         The two states that observe Arbor Day the earliest in the year are Florida & Louisiana. They observe Arbor Day on the third Friday in January
  • ·         The state that observes Arbor Day the latest in the year is South Carolina. Their observance is on the first Friday in December. Hawaii would have been my guess and they are second latest, observing Arbor Day on the first Friday in November.
  • ·         The most popular date for observing Arbor Day is the last Friday in April which is Arbor Day in Nebraska, 24 other states, and the District of Columbia.
  • ·         Five states... Alabama, California, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Maine... don’t have an Arbor DAY, but observes Arbor Day for a full week. Alabama’s is the last full week of February, California’s is March 7-14, Oklahoma’s is the last full week in March, Oregon’s is the first full week of April, and Maine’s is the third full week of May.
  • ·         Two states have two state trees. Nevada has the single-leaf pinyon pine and the bristlecone pine while California has the coastal redwood and the giant sequoia for their state trees.
  • ·         Three states have nut trees as their state tree. You can make your own joke here. Those states are Hawaii with the kukui, Ohio with the Ohio buckeye and Texas with the pecan.
  • ·         Besides Nebraska, two other states… Kansas and Wyoming… have the cottonwood as their state tree. This is the second most popular state tree.
  • ·         The most popular state tree is the sugar maple. It’s the state tree for four states… New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Also, did you know America has a national tree? Most people don’t! In 2004, the National Arbor Day Foundation hosted a vote on its website for a national tree. The winner by a significant margin was the oak tree. In December 2004, Congress passed legislation designating the oak as America’s national tree, touting its infamous strength.

A specific species was not selected because different species of oak are better adapted in different parts of the country. The redwood came in second place, and the dogwood, maple and pine rounded out the top five contenders.

So recognize the many benefits trees provide and plant a tree this spring. For more information on tree selection, planting and care, contact your local Nebraska Extension office.