Arbor Day was first proposed by Nebraska Territory pioneer J. Sterling Mormont, originally of Detroit. Mormont and his wife were nature lovers and quickly planted their new property with trees, shrubs and flowers. He recognized the multifaceted value of trees; there is, of course, aesthetic value, additionally plant roots aid in erosion control, trees provide a much needed windbreak from punishing plains’ gusts, shade from the elements and furnish building materials for pioneering efforts. Mormont was a journalist and became the editor of a prominent Nebraska newspaper, from which he used his bully pulpit to share his unbridled agricultural and silvicultural enthusiasm. He advocated tree planting, illustrating its many benefits and encouraged civic organizations to join in and coordinate events. Mormont was a pillar of his community, and rose to become the secretary of the Nebraska territory where he had further opportunities to extol the value of trees. On January 4th, 1872 he proposed a tree planting holiday called “Arbor Day” to be celebrated in April. He suggested giving prizes to communities, groups or individuals for planting the most trees. It is estimated that over a million trees were planted in Nebraska that first Arbor Day. Although the holiday was officially proclaimed in 1874 by the governor of the new state of Nebraska, it didn’t gain legal holiday status until 1885. At that time it was decided that observation would occur on April 22nd, J. Sterling Mormont’s birthday.
During the 1870s other states passed legislation making Arbor Day a legal holiday and traditions formed specifically celebrating in schools with students pledging to and physically planting trees. Arbor Day is now a national holiday and is currently celebrated on the last Friday in April, in most states but some states choose a date more seasonally suited for tree planting in their zone. To find the day of your state’s observance (and learn about your state tree!) visit: http://www.arborday.org/arborday/datesText.cfm
Many schools, towns, organizations, states or parks will hold their own celebrations of Arbor Day. Most will include tree plantings, donations of trees and trees planted in some one’s name or memory. Our arborists celebrate Arbor Day by trying to work with parks and organizations to coordinate philanthropic efforts for a worthy cause, such as trail maintenance, cemetery up keep or pruning in a local park. They also attend local events to answer questions, advise and generally join in the festivities which celebrate our passion and life’s work. There are many other ways of individually honoring Arbor Day such as planting a tree in your yard, taking a hike, attending a class on horticulture or dendrology, reading a book about trees or volunteering with your town’s garden club or beautification committee.
Trees add value to your home and community, they help regulate the temperature of your town or city and provide habitat and forage for animals. They moderate storm water, combat climate change and aid in the conservation of soil. Take part in an event, meet new people, make a difference in your community and be an icon of responsible and caring stewardship!