Basically, we celebrate today because once upon a time J. Sterling Morton took a good look at his Nebraska spread and decided it needed trees. As a result, he proposed a day of tree planting and appreciation, so April 10, 1872, Nebraska held the country’s first Arbor Day. With more than one million trees planted, it was an amazing success. Nebraska held its second Arbor Day on Morton’s April 22 birthday in 1885. Eventually other states picked up the tradition setting the date to correspond with their region’s planting season. Not until 1970, was a national day set aside. As today is the last Friday in April, it is officially the day of the tree!
Tree respect seems to be imprinted on our human DNA. Mankind’s mythology is filled with sacred trees. The Garden of Eden had The Tree of Life and The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Buddhism has the Bohdi Tree. The Celts honored the Holly Tree. But, the ultimate tree respect goes to Norse mythology, which says that the Ash tree (or Yggdrasil) holds the entire universe. The storied Norse tree inspired the heroic trees in both J.R.R. Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’ novels. And The Daily Cupcake suspects James Cameron read a few of the Norse tales before penning Avatar with its Home Tree and Sacred Tree of Souls.
Anyone who has taken a moment to regard nature’s arbors can understand why trees are held in such high regard. There is something about the knowing furrows of a tree’s bark, the far reach of its branches, the crowning leaves and blooms of its canopy that convey stately wisdom. In other words, trees are the plant world’s Abe Lincoln.
With strip malls and housing additions rapidly devouring treed wilderness, take a cue from Mr. Morton and survey your own plot of land. Where does it need a tree? Today is the day to plant it! If you want a fast-growing shade tree, the Royal Empress is the tree-of-the-moment (at least, according to Oprah and Good Morning America).