Exploring April and National Arbor Day

Exploring April and National Arbor Day

“I picked one up and studied it – a delicate, luminous, fringed flower fallen from a red maple that grew alongside the trail. I looked out across the lake and spotted a stand of red maples, reddish-tinged trees that are always doing something red – red hued branches in the summer; blazing red leaves in the fall; red tipped twigs in the winter; and now in spring, a mantle of brilliant red flowers.” From The Stillness of the Living Forest, by John Harvey.

Welcome to April – the first full month of spring. March came in like a lion bringing cold and snow that we lacked the previous two winter months. Spring arrived right on time with Mother Earth slowly tipping the balance forward into our warmer seasons. Let the “greening” begin with trees and forest abuzz with activity. The red maple buds in our yard are swelling and the veil of red flowers will soon appear. Red maples are the first of our deciduous trees to flower and for me always represent the arrival of spring in our forests and woodlands.

I have to admit to a bit of an obsession with trees. As a kid they were my playground and during difficult times my sanctuary as well. Now many years later, I am still enthralled by the magnitude and value these living giants bring to our daily lives. The annual calendar is dotted with a few unique and perhaps lesser-known celebrations, and one I enjoy is always on the last Friday of April – National Arbor Day, a day to celebrate trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a great resource for information about the annual celebration and can be found at https://www.arborday.org/ Here’s what I have learned about Arbor Day.

Arbor Day started back in 1872 in Nebraska. The early pioneers that settled Nebraska Territory were struck by the treeless prairies and missed the wooded landscape of their former homes. Trees were practical, serving as windbreaks, keeping recently turned sod and soil in place, and providing fuel, building materials and shade.

  1. Sterling Morton was a resident of Nebraska City and a newspaper editor and advocate for individuals and civic groups to plant trees. He became secretary of the Nebraska Territory and continued to spread his message about the importance of trees. On January 4, 1872, at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture, he proposed a tree planting holiday to be called Arbor Day. The date was set for April 10, 1872 with prizes offered to the individuals and counties that planted the most tees. It was estimated that 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.

In 1885, Arbor Day was named a legal state holiday in Nebraska, and more states followed and passed legislation to observe Arbor Day. By 1920, 45 states and territories were celebrating Arbor Day. Many school and other civic groups planted trees and school children received tees to plant in their yards.

I hope you’ll join me to celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, April 28th. One way to participate is by planting a tree on your property. Your local nursery is a good source for information as well as trees to plant. I do suggest that you look for a tree that is native to our region like northern red oak, or white oak. Oaks are beautiful, long-lived and provide benefits to countless animals, birds and insects. Another easy way to celebrate Arbor Day is to go for a walk among trees. Visit a local park, land trust property, or one of our state forests. What better way to celebrate trees and all they give us than by spending time among them.

Last fall I attended the Connecticut Forestry Forum, organized each year by the CT Forest and Park Association and the CT DEEP Forestry Division. One of the sessions I attended was organized by Tom Worthley, UCONN Extension Forester, and during his opening remarks he described what to him was the meaning of long-range planning and forest management. “I want to know that my grandchildren’s grandchildren will come to see a 100-year-old tree that I planted.”

I smiled at this remark because that is a goal of mine as well. In fact, while it may not have been my grandfather’s goal, it has become a reality, five decades after his passing. In the early 1940s he planted three sugar maple trees, representing his three sons serving in the US Armed Forces during WWII. Those same three trees, now 80 years old, are still standing, and each summer his grandchildren’s grandchildren play in the shade of their outstretched branches. That’s a legacy to aspire to, not just for me, but for all who care for and enjoy trees, and the critical role they play in our world, now and forever.

We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. April is here and I hope you’ll take part in one of our more unique special days – Arbor Day on 28th. I hope you’ll join me every day of the year celebrating The Last Green Valley, together let us care for it, enjoy it, and pass it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org or 860-774-3300.

Exploring The Last Green Valley, Sunday, April 2, 2023

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the following article.  The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.



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