Pop Quiz time! When and where did Arbor Day start? (Keep reading to find the answer.)
On Friday, April 24th, 2009, we’ll observe the 137th Arbor Day, the day we set aside to celebrate trees. It’s a good day for planting a tree, as well. Did you know that not every state celebrates Arbor Day on the same date? Some states farther to the north or south celebrate the holiday on the date that’s best for tree-planting in their region.
Would you like to identify a tree that’s growing in front of your home? Check the Trees of Pittsburgh website. Would you like to take a stroll through an arboretum of over 40 varieties of trees? Go to Allegheny Commons, sometimes called West Park on Pittsburgh’s North Side. (I know, shouldn’t West Park be in West End instread of the North Side? Well, it’s not.)
I have 2 huge maples in my front yard: a Silver Maple and a Red Maple. They provide shade on hot summer days and put on a beautiful show of orange and gold in the fall. Right now they’re getting ready to release their seeds (those little whirly things that spin like propellers).
Now for the answer to the question I posed at the start of this post: Arbor Day was started by J. Sterling Morton (1832-1902) in Nebraska in 1872. It became a legal Nebraska holiday in 1885. Homesteaders who planted trees on their claims would get extra acreage (called a “tree claim.”) They needed trees to help hold down the soil when the winds came “sweepin’ down the plain.” The trees provided shade for people and livestock and mature trees provided lumber. Read more about the origins of Arbor Day on the Arbor Day Society’s website. And if you really love trees you can join the Society.
J. Sterling Morton’s birthday is May 22nd. Thank you, Mr. Morton. Happy birthday and happy Arbor Day!
Learn more about the trees in your neighborhood by visiting your library and checking out one of the many books about trees. A few good ones:
A Tree is Growing by Arthur Dorros
Autumn Leaves by Ken Robbins
Oak Tree by Gordon Morrison
From Pinecone to Pine Tree by Ellen Weiss
Winter Trees by Carole Gerber
Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast by Charles Fergus
Tree: A Life Story by David Suzuki
The Trees by Conrad Richter follows the lives of pioneers who in the 18th century settled the territory that became the state of Ohio. If you read all 3 volumes of the trilogy (The Fields and The Town come next) you’ll also discover the underlying story of the disappearance of the old growth forest that once spread its canopy across the region.