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Arbor Day started as an idea of one man in Nebraska and grew into a larger movement around the world. Here is more on the history of how Arbor Day came to be what it is today:
- The holiday of Arbor Day first started in Nebraska City, Nebraska in 1872. This area of Nebraska was a treeless plain when journalist J. Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline moved into town. Morton became vice president of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture where he submitted a resolution to designate a day for planting trees.
- That motion was accepted and April 10, 1872 was declared Arbor Day by the board. Word of the holiday was spread through newspapers throughout the state.
- They offered prizes to the people and counties that planted the most trees that day. On that first Arbor Day alone, over one million trees were planted in Nebraska. Arbor Day officially became a legal holiday in the state of Nebraska in 1885.
- Over time, more and more states adopted the holiday and by 1920, over 45 U.S. states and territories were observing Arbor Day. Morton was made Secretary of Agriculture by President Grover Cleveland in 1893.
Today, the holiday is observed by all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico.
“A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as hopeless.”
—President Theodore Roosevelt, 1907,
Around the World
Other countries have also started their own traditions of dedicating time to planting and caring for trees.
- AustraliaNational Schools Tree Day in June and National Tree Day in July BrazilArbor Day (Dia da Árvore) in September ChinaArbor Day in March GermanyArbor Day in April
- CanadaMaple Leaf Day in September during National Forest Week. Certain parts of Canada celebrate their own Arbour Day or Arbour Week.
- IcelandStudent’s Afforestation Day
- IndiaNational Festival of Tree Planting (Van Mahotsava) in July
- IsraelNew Year’s Day of the Trees (Tu Bishvat) in Shevat
- JapanGreenery Day in April
- KoreaTree-Loving Week in April
- ScotlandScottish Branch Arbor Day
- South AfricaArbour Week in September
- SpainTree Festival in March
- United KingdomNational Tree Week in November and December
- United StatesArbor Day in April
- YugoslaviaArbor Day in the Spring and Afforestation Day in the fall
“The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
How to Celebrate Arbor Day
There are many ways to celebrate Arbor Day and to show your appreciation for trees. If you are wondering what to do to properly celebrate the occasion, here are some ways you can commemorate the holiday.
- Plant a tree (or many trees)!
- The best way to celebrate Arbor Day is to plant a tree whether that is in a nice spot on your property or in a designated plot in your community. Each new tree planted brings innumerable benefits to the people and wildlife around it.
- There are often local organizations that offer free trees to people who are interested in planting them on Arbor Day.
- Another way to celebrate Arbor Day is to donate money to an organization that plants trees, preserves rain forests, and/or works to save forest lands around the globe.
- Give away free trees for people to plant in their own communities.
- Volunteering in your local community to plant new trees and care for existing ones is a great way to show your appreciation on Arbor Day.
- Organize a project in your community to beautify a green space.
- Get a group together to do a paper drive to recycle paper products and save a tree.
- Adopt and care for trees along the street or in other public spaces.
- Clean up a public space by removing trash and other litter that could be taking away from its beauty and putting wildlife in danger.
- Organize a day of volunteering on a farm to reconnect with nature.
- Educate Yourself
- Read a book on trees.
- Go to a tree and plant care class.
- Get a forestry degree online.
- Simply, get outside!
- Go on a hike. Make a point to take in the beauty of the trees. You could even make a game out of it and try to identify the most trees. Our tree identification guide can help you out.
- Gather people to go to a nursery or garden center.
- Visit a park or beautiful part of nature.
- Organize a tree hunt in your community, where you try to find the oldest tree in your area.
- Plant more bee-friendly plants in your garden. Honeybees are crucial to the pollination of our food supply and they are dying at an alarming rate.
The Benefits of Trees
Why is planting trees such an important thing to do? Here are some of the benefits that trees bring to our lives and our communities.
- Release OxygenTrees use energy from sunlight to create the oxygen we all need to survive.
- Conserve WaterAs they shade lawns and parks, trees slow down water evaporation and preserve more water for the grass and other plantlife to utilize.
- Help Protect Against Soil ErosionWhen trees are planted on a hill, they hold soil together and reduce runoff.
Purify the Air
They intercept pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, ozone, and sulfur dioxide, and clean the air around them. Air pollutants have been linked to an increase in childhood asthma rates as well as climate change, which is why why planting trees and breathing cleaner air is important for our communities and our planet.
- Reduce Noise PollutionThey help to block and absorb sound, which can provide relief in particularly noisy areas.
- Provide WoodTrees are harvested for their wood and transformed into all kinds of creations such as furniture, sports equipment, and musical instruments.
- Provide Homes for WildlifeCreatures of all kinds including insects, birds, and animals use trees for shelter.
Provide Shade and Cool Areas
Trees can cool down hot city streets in the summertime, making going outside or sitting in a park more pleasurable. They can also cool down houses that they block sun from, which helps households cut down on energy usage.
- Add BeautyAdding trees to any landscape can help to make the area more beautiful and serene. Arguably even more so in the fall, when trees take on many breathtakingly vibrant colors.
- Provide FoodMany types of trees yield fruits and nuts for people and wildlife to consume. They can also bring economic opportunities to those selling what they harvest from their trees.
- Add ValueThey increase the value of the property as well. The value of a mature tree can range between $1,000 and $10,000.
Have a Calming Effect
Being amongst the trees and breathing in the fresh air that they provide can bring calm and reduce stress for individuals. Studies have shown that trees can relax brain waves and lower heart rates.
“He plants trees to benefit another generation.”
Some Facts About Trees
- An acre of forest can provide four tons of oxygen, meeting the needs of 18 peopleover one year.
- One acre of mature trees, in one year, can absorb the same amount of carbon dioxide that a car emits in over 26,000miles worth of driving. A few trees providing shade over a single- family home in the summer can cut air conditioning usage in half.
- A well-landscaped property filled with trees can increase a property’s value by20%
How to Choose the Right Tree to Plant
Trees perform best in their appropriate hardiness zones. Canada and the United States are divided into 11 zones based on average temperature and climate. The United States reaches zones two through ten.
- Choosing a tree based on its recommended zone will give it the best chance of survival, however it does not guarantee that the tree will succeed. There are other factors such as soil type, moisture levels, sun exposure, drainage, and humidity that can have an effect on the life of the tree. Be sure to check the specific requirements for your chosen tree and compare that with the environment you are planting it in.
- 40°F through 30°F
- 30°F through 20°F
- 20°F through 10°F
- 10°F through 0°F
- 0°F through -10°F
- -10°F through -20°F
- -20°F through -30°F
- -30°F through -40°F
How to Plant a Tree
After choosing the best tree for you, it is time to plant the tree. Here is a quick step-by-step guide to planting your new tree.
- Dig a large hole where you want the tree to go. Make sure the hole is at least two times as wide as the root ball and deep enough for the root ball to fit so the top is slightly above with the surrounding ground.
- Carefully position the tree in the hole. Be sure that tree is facing the direction that you want it to and remove any ties or burlap that came attached to the tree root.
- Fill in the remaining space. Add loose soil and organic matter (optional) to the space leftover. Try not to add too much to one side, forcing the tree to tilt in one direction. You want it to grow straight and tall.
- Attach the tree to a stake. Stick a stake into the ground and through the root ball. Then attach it loosely to the trunk of the new tree.
- Water, water, water. Newly planted trees require more than more established trees. Water the new tree every day for the first few weeks. For a more in-depth explanation on how to plant a tree, go to our tree planting guide.
“There is no aristocracy in trees. They are not haughty. They will thrive near the humblest cabin on our fertile prairies, just as well and become just as refreshing to the eye and as fruitful as they will in the shadow of a king’s palace.”
—J. Sterling Morton
Tree Care Tips
If you would like to show appreciation for the trees around you, here are some tips for how to properly care for trees.
- Cover the base and roots of a tree in three to five inches of mulch. This will help insulate it from extreme temperatures, slow the evaporation of water, and hinder weed growth.
- Depending on the temperature and environment, a tree should be watered every one to two weeks. More frequent watering is needed for new trees. Mature trees need a good watering about every month. If there is extreme heat, then water more often.
- Make sure the tree is gettingadequate water, but do not overdo it either. There are a few ways you can check to see if a tree is getting enough water and those are by using a moisture probe, tool, or shovel to dig about 12 inches into the soil.If the soil is damp about 6-12 inches below the surface then your tree is well-watered. If the soil is dry and crumbly, then more water is needed. If the soil is soggy, then that tree is getting too much water, which can block oxygen and eventually kill the roots.
- Check leaves for signs of drought: wilting, curling, yellowing, or browning.
- Clear any weeds or grass around the base of the tree. Other plants steal valuable resources from the tree.
- Do not use pesticides or herbicides on young trees. This can permanently damage the root system.
- Regular pruning is essential. Trim any dead or diseased branches that you see on a tree.
- Keep an eye out fortree pests and diseases. Our tree pages have more information on common diseases for specific trees.
Take these tips and make a habit of caring for the green spaces around you.
Arbor Day is about celebrating how much trees continue to give to us and spreading that wealth to future generations.
“ Each of those reposes upon the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future. It contemplates, not the good and the beautiful of past generations, but it sketches, outlines, establishes the useful and the beautiful for the ages yet to come.”
—J. Sterling Morton