150th Anniversary of Arbor Day
Today we celebrate the planting, upkeep, and preservation of trees.
Arbor Day, much like Earth Day, is a celebration of nature, specifically our stoic, many-limbed old friends: trees. The seeds of arbor day were planted way back in the 1870s when journalist and tree enthusiast Julius Sterling Morton purchased 160 acres of Nebraska land and planted a wide variety of trees on what was primarily desolate short grass plain. As the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper, Morton was also able to extend his knowledge of trees as well as his ecological message to his fellow Corn Huskers.
His love for trees quickly resonated with the people of Nebraska and soon Morton was able to convince the Nebraska Board of Agriculture to hold a day encouraging people to plant trees in their community. Thus, the first Arbor Day was born on April 10th, 1872, with prizes awarded to towns that planted the most trees. However, like a tree, it was slow to branch to all 50 states, not becoming a national holiday for nearly 100 years. Now it’s celebrated on the last Friday of April, and today is the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day, which is 150 rings for those counting at home, but still not as many as this tree.
Why Trees are so Great
Trees are quite literally the lungs of planet Earth, as they absorb pollutants through their leaves, filter the air, and most importantly, produce breathable oxygen through photosynthesis. We probably wouldn’t be here without trees, or our lives would be very different. But creating our oxygen isn’t all that trees can do. In fact, there are hundreds of ways trees, and particularly, forests, benefit our world. Here are a few:
- Forests make us healthier and happier. There’s mounting evidence that spending time in the woods boosts our immune system, lowers stress, and improves our mood, which is probably why the Teatown staff is always smiling.
- Trees cool us down. They do a great job regulating temperatures by not only providing shade but also lowering humidity and reducing wind speed. Studies have shown that trees planted in urban environments can reduce the temperature by as much as 45 degrees!
- They’re pleasing to look at. This doesn’t need much explanation. Leaf peeping in the fall, when the maples are on fire, yellow, orange, red. Or springtime when the cherry blossom, magnolia, and dogwood flowers pop. Trees can be quite beautiful if we slow down and take a look.
- A tree is a home. Animals and insects depend on trees to survive and trees, especially oaks, provide habitat for creatures of all shapes, sizes, and personalities. Everyone from carpenter ants to bald eagles, bears, foxes, and even racoons call a tree its home. What creatures can you think of that call a tree a home?
Most of all, trees promote community, which is what Morton had in mind with the first Arbor Day 150 years ago. People gather under them, plant them, climb them. They’re not only a significant aspect of nearly any park, trail, or landscape, but they play a critical role making us who we are.
Enjoy the Trees of Teatown
Teatown offers a variety of ways to enjoy trees on our 1,000-acres through our group hikes, programs, and many winding paths and trails. Take a walk down to Wildflower Woods where there lives a variety of native trees who would love for you to come by and say hi. Marvel at the towering tulip trees on the way to Vernay Lake.
Have you ever hiked up the Hidden Valley trail to the pine forest? This is Teatown’s most visible and dense grove of pine trees—eastern red pines, white pines, and Hemlocks to be exact—and they are a real treat. The lush bed of needles. The sharp, crisp air. Breathe deeply and listen. If you venture on a blustery day, you might hear the tall pines knocking or squeaking in the wind. That’s enough to make any day an arbor day.
Here are some of the Teatown Staff’s favorite trees:
Kevin C—Southern Oak
Kevin S—Eastern White Pine
Lauren Z—Quaking Aspen
Maddy S—Monkey Puzzle tree
Diane D— Japanese Lace Leaf Maple
Susie E—White Birch
Marie R—American Beech
Jean M—Tulip tree
Millie D—Weeping Willow
Will S—Japanese Maple
Karina T—Birch tree
Let us know your favorite tree in the comments!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin is an artist, writer, and Teatown’s maintenance guy. You can often find him on the trails with his dog Kodi saying hi to the trees. He loves Neil Young and is an advocate for trees via his organization Save the Cedars dot org, which really needs a web designer.