Terrifical Trees: Arbor Day History & Celebration

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By Leslie Lindsay

April.  The month of rain; the month of newness and growth.  So, why not celebrate the almighty tree?  We do just that with the annual tradition of Arbor Day and Earth Day.  Interestingly, though Arbor Day is celebrated at different times of the year for each state.  For example, here in Illinois we celebrate Arbor Day the last Friday of the month, but Missouri celebrates it the first Friday of April.  Floridians are honoring trees the third Friday of January and some states not until May, depending on the climate and best times of year to plant trees.

Originating in Nebraska City, Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton on April 10, 1872 where an estimated 1 million trees were planted on that particular day.  Since then, Americans have marked the day a way to plant and care for trees.

But just who was this J. Stirling Morton guy?! Seems he was was a college-educated Nebraska newpaper editor (by way of Michiagn) who served as President Grover Cleaveland’s secretary of Agriculture.   In 1897, he started a weekly conservative newsmagazine called The Conservative. 

Yet, the idea of Arbor Day took root (yes, pun intended), when J. Stirling Morton declared that the economic and environmental landscape of Nebraska would be “better off” if there were more trees in the area.  And so, he urged the planting of all types of trees–fruit-bearing trees, shade trees, and windbreaks.  Soon, all 50 states began to adopt the tradition…and a new seed was planted.

Why not read a book to your children about Arbor Day and then plant a seedling? Pack up and head to your local arboretum (our fave is the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL)  It’s the perfect way to tie learning with experience.   Here are some of our favorite tree-related books: 

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