Arbor Day: The Occasion to Honor Trees

Author’s Note: Research is credited to National Day Calendar and Arbor Day Foundation.

Arbor Day is something everyone learned about in elementary school. Taking care of the planet, planting trees and learning how trees take care of us were all aspects of our basic education. I believe more so in past years, with global warming being an issue all news sources seem to report on regularly, Arbor Day has taken off in popularity.

Why shouldn’t we acknowledge trees? They cleanse the carbon dioxide we breathe out and turn it into oxygen that we can breathe in, they provide habitats and homes for literally millions of species across the planet, provide food and materials for daily needs such as wood and paper and, not to mention, add beauty to a landscape and shade on a hot summer day. 

The exact date for Arbor Day is typically observed on the last Friday of April, as it is in North Dakota but can vary by climate, depending on the best time for tree planting.

The origins of the holiday started in our very own Midwest. In 1874, then governor of Nebraska, Robert W. Furnas, named April 22 as an official holiday in Nebraska. The tradition of planting trees quickly caught on. By 1920, more than forty-five states and territories across the country had some form of observance during the start of their growing season. 

Much of the popularity of planting trees in the Midwest was on the part of the pioneers who settled in the middle of the continent. Settlers traveling from the east began to miss the trees they left behind. Before the Midwest was settled by pioneers, trees were mostly found along rivers and lakes, which left vast open spaces of flat prairie grasses for miles around.

One of my memories of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books is the story about Laura and her much younger sister, Grace. Laura spent much of her childhood in the woods of Wisconsin or in Minnesota, but Grace was only a baby when her family left Minnesota to settle in South Dakota, a prairie with no trees near their new home. 

Grace was young, reading in their family home in South Dakota, and asked her mother “What is a tree?”

It’s hard to imagine not knowing a tree, but when all you have ever seen is a flat, open prairie, then it’s understandable why this might be a foreign object.

Trees are vital to life and add some beauty along the way. Even if you aren’t planting one this Arbor Day, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate them for what they are and everything they do for the world. They deserve the love!

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