Importance of Trees throughout History
It’s hard to overstate the importance of trees to our daily lives. They offer us basic needs like shade and oxygen, provide habitat for animals, and create beautiful landscapes for us to explore. Trees are also important resources that provide us with lumber to build our homes, fiber for paper, food items like fruits and nuts, ingredients for medication and firewood for heat to cook with and keep us warm.
Humans have long had a special relationship with trees, and evidence of festivals celebrating trees dates as far back as the 1500s. Some believe the Swiss started tree festivals when 5th-century villagers gathered to plant groves, but others credit the 5th century Spanish. Regardless of where it began, it is evident that humans have gathered to plant and celebrate trees for centuries.
– “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Greek Proverb
National Arbor Day
In the United States, the first tree festival was celebrated in the 1800s. J. Sterling Morton of Nebraska created the first Arbor Day Resolution in 1872 and, on April 10 of that year, it is said that one million trees were planted throughout his state. The rest of the nation began to join in and in 1883, the American Forestry Association thought it was so important that they tasked Birdsey Northrop, of Connecticut, to spread the word and bring Arbor Day to the entire world. What we now know as Arbor Day was eventually adopted by all 50 states and is now celebrated in over 40 different countries.
– “To exist as a nation, to prosper as a state, to live as a people, we must have trees.” Theodore Roosevelt
Texas Arbor Day
Arbor Day didn’t make its way to Texas until the late 1880s. On February 22,1889, W. Goodrich Jones rallied the citizens of Temple for the first Arbor Day in our state. The following year, the city of Austin hosted the first statewide Arbor Day celebration and it has been going strong ever since. To commemorate the first Texas Arbor Day, Senator George Tyler set aside February 22 as the official Texas Arbor Day. This changed throughout the years until the date moved to the first Friday in November and became what we now celebrate as Texas Arbor Day.
Our forefathers celebrated Arbor Day in April when spring planting was the best option for northern states. National Arbor Day is still celebrated on the last Friday in April, but over time, each state has moved to their own dates. Depending on the region, the varied climate of the US has made tree planting ideal at different times of year for different locations.
Here in Texas, we experience a variety of climate extremes, such as drought and flash flooding, extreme heat and often extreme cold in the north and desert regions. Texas heat can start as early as late spring (including April) and last as long as late Fall. We don’t often cool off until late October. This makes early November the perfect time in Texas to plant and establish a tree. While our northern friends are planting in the spring, Texas trees do better when planted in the Fall.
Celebrate in 2021
Per Texas tradition, each year a different host city is chosen to showcase Texas Arbor Day. Often attended by the Governor and various elected officials, these celebrations kick off events happening throughout the state. Since Austin is the state capitol, it was chosen to host the very first Texas Arbor Day, but these days a host city must be designated Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation and apply through the Texas A&M Forest Service.
Congratulations to Weatherford for being chosen as the 2021 Texas Arbor Day host city. Weatherford is celebrating 30 years as a Tree City USA and has been a KTB Affiliate since 1994. You can view the Weatherford events streaming live on Facebook @texasforestservice and @wpard. The theme for 2021 is “Turn Over a New Leaf” encouraging Texans to plant a tree for a fresh start. The Texas Arbor Day Committee; comprised of the Texas A&M Forest Service, the Texas Forestry Association and the Texas Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture share the message that, “together we have had a lot of challenges over the past year, and it is time to plant trees to begin a bright, optimistic future.”
You can get involved by visiting our friends at the Texas A&M Forest Service to check out how to apply to be the next host city, win free trees, $500 in their activity contest, and view tips on successful Arbor Day event planning. Consider holding an Arbor Day event in your community. Whether you celebrate in April or November, Arbor Day is the perfect opportunity to expand your urban forestry plan and educate your citizens.
There is no doubt that trees play an important part in our communities and they will have an even bigger impact on our future. Whether you are an official tree city or just passionate about your green spaces, mobilize your community today and start planting!
If sustainability doesn’t get you excited to plant trees, how about economics? According to the Arbor Day Foundation and a recent University of Nebraska study, Economics of Urban Forestry in the United States, “Urban trees are a powerful force in America. They create jobs and opportunity. They cool our homes, increase property values, and deliver important benefits to society.”
The study found that Urban Forestry in Texas:
- Creates 38,657 jobs
- Adds $1.6 billion in yearly property values
- Contributes $7.8 billion in community-wide environmental benefits
(All dates and facts in this article were found on Wikipedia and the following sites.)
- Texas A&M Forest Service – Official Texas Arbor Day webpage – https://tfsweb.tamu.edu/arborday
- Texas A&M Forest Service – Tree Planting Guide – https://texastreeplanting.tamu.edu
- Arbor Day Foundation – https://www.arborday.org
- Arbor Day Foundation – Tree City USA – https://www.arborday.org/programs/treecityusa
- Arbor Day Foundation – Economics of Urban Forestry – https://www.arborday.org/urban-forestry-economic
Blog written by Karen Maldonado, KTB Project Manager