- Author: Denise Godbout-Avant
sake of his children and his children's children, who are to sit beneath the shadow of their spreading boughs.”
Author: Hyacinthe Loyson
I love to wander among trees, to see and hear the leaves swaying in the breeze, observe birds darting about the branches, squirrels running up and down the trunk, and insects flitting about. I have spent many contented hours sitting under a tree reading a good book. Trees mark the seasons of our lives, blooming in the spring before producing green leaves, producing fruits or nuts in the summer, changing colors in the fall, and stand bare and stark during the winter months. I particularly love the Valley Oak tree (Quercus lobata) with its distinctive lobed leaves, the acorns it yields, the fascinating oak galls produced by tiny wasps, and their historical importance to the original people of California as a staple food source.
Along with 50 countries around the world, the USA celebrates trees on Arbor Day. The day is celebrated during the spring tree planting season. In the USA, the date is typically the last Friday of April, which this year is Friday, April 29th. The date varies around the world depending on geography, weather, and if in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.
But why do we commemorate trees and how did Arbor Day get started?
Benefits of Trees
From the beginning, trees have provided us with the oxygen we breathe, along with food, shelter, medicine, and tools. To list a few of their other benefits:
- Trees help combat climate change – Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), which is contributing to global warming. They remove the CO2 from the air and store the carbon. In one year, an acre of trees can absorb the same amount of CO2 produced when the average car is driven 26,000 miles.
- Trees clean the air – Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases such as nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.
- Trees provide habitat for wildlife – Sycamores and oaks are among numerous trees that provide homes for many species of birds, mammals, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.
- Trees cool cities – Trees deflect the sunlight, cooling the air up to 10°F by shading our homes, buildings, and roads.
- Trees prevent soil erosion – Trees reduce water runoff by allowing the rainwater to flow down the trunk, onto the earth below. Their roots also slow runoff and hold the soil in place.
- Trees provide wood and paper – Trees help us build our homes and the paper we write on.
- Trees beautify urban spaces – Trees can mask unsightly concrete walls, parking lots, and unsightly views. They help muffle the sounds of the city and create eye-soothing canopies of green. They absorb dust and reduce glare.
- Trees provide personal and spiritual values – During our busy lives, trees can give us a piece of nature and moments of tranquility.
Arbor Day History
The tradition quickly spread and within 20 years the day was celebrated in every state but Delaware. On April 15, 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt, a conservation supporter, issued an “Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States.” In 1970, Arbor Day became nationally recognized due to efforts by President Richard Nixon.
People can celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree (which can be dedicated to a loved one) and spending time caring for the trees we have. Morton's words resonate strongly today as climate change becomes a serious threat: “Other holidays repose on the past: Arbor Day proposes for the future.”
How Can We Help?
- To reduce the demand for paper, check out books from your local Stanislaus County Library instead of purchasing new ones.
- Help protect existing forests – Encourage reduced cutting down of healthy forests by supporting sustainable reforestation.
- Afforestation – Support the planting of new forest plantations, which can enhance existing forest cover and help reduce global warming with carbon sequestration.
- Continue to water your tree, even during a drought. If you shut off lawn water, don't forget to deep water your tree! You can use a hose or soaker hose to water under the drip line.
- And, of course, plant a tree! You can volunteer for local organizations when they have tree planting days or plant a tree in your garden.
An excellent resource on care and selection of trees is Stanislaus County's Master Gardener “Trees in Your Home Garden,” https://ucanr.edu/sites/CEStanislausCo/files/341553.pdf
You can learn more about trees from the National Arbor Day Foundation at https://www.arborday.org/trees/treefacts/
Do you have a favorite tree? Write in our comment section what your favorite tree is and why?!