Curious Nature: Celebrate the special trees in your life on Arbor Day |

Curious Nature: Celebrate the special trees in your life on Arbor Day

Jamie Jubeck
Walking Mountains Science Center
Bristlecone pine trees are among the oldest living species of trees.
Rick Spitzer photo

Do you love the sounds of Aspen stands blowing in the breeze or the scent of towering Colorado Blue Spruce near a stream? Then Arbor Day is your day.

Arbor day is truly an environmentally-friendly holiday when people around the world are encouraged to plant trees in celebration of all the benefits they provide us. It is easy to think of reasons why this holiday is loved around the world. Planting trees helps provide communities with cleaner air, it gets people outdoors to appreciate the natural world, and it is an amazing opportunity to educate others or to become educated about the wonderful trees around us.

Many people are familiar with Arbor Day or have at least have seen it marked on the calendar on the last Friday of April. What some might not know is that Arbor Day has an interesting origin story born right here in the United States of America.

This story begins in 1854 when a young J. Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline decided to move from their home in Michigan to establish new roots in the newly-established Nebraska territory. Westward expansion was an enticing concept that promised cheap land and a prosperous future for those who made the journey. The Mortons purchased 160 acres of property in Nebraska consisting mainly of shrubs and grasses indicative of a plains landscape. Morton, being a man of action, quickly began to plant trees on their property to improve soil stability, decrease wind erosion, and simply because he loved trees.

Being an accomplished journalist in Michigan, Mr. Morton quickly rose in rank among Nebraskan news outlets to become editor-in-chief of the state’s first newspaper, The Nebraska City News. Seizing the opportunity, Mr. Morton used this platform to advocate for the planting of and responsible care of trees as well as to inform others of trees’ importance to our wellbeing. His message quickly gained strong support, in part because most Nebraskans were aware of the lack of trees in their communities and wished to have more.  

On January 7, 1872, J. Sterling Morton, with the support of the Nebraska Board of Education, proposed the plans for the first Arbor Day and on April 10, 1872, the first Arbor Day was celebrated with enormous success. Local schools jumped right in as the holiday was an opportunity to learn with hands-on experiences and Nebraskans planted over 1 million trees on that first Arbor Day.

Throughout the years, recognition of the holiday grew and President Nixon recognized it as a national holiday in 1970. Declaration of this holiday was celebrated along with the passage of pro-environmental legislation, such as the passing of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. The concept of Arbor Day has been adopted by many other countries such as Brazil’s Dia da Arvore, Mexico’s Dia del Arbol, Canada’s Maple Leaf Day, and Germany’s Tag des Baumes. Although the dates of these celebrations vary along with growing seasons, they all celebrate the planting of trees for the betterment of the environment.

What better way to celebrate Arbor Day than to plant a tree and care for it as it grows with you. You can rest in the shade the tree provides and enjoy its beauty knowing that you have helped improve the quality of life in your community!

Jamie Jubeck is a naturalist at Walking Mountains Science Center and he loves informing locals and visitors about all the flora and fauna found in the beautiful Eagle Valley! 

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