Arbor Day 2017 – Hug a Tree, Plant a Tree

Linda Poppenheimer The Unlikely Environmentalist at Green Groundswell
Author hugging a tiny fir tree on Mount St. Helens, WA in August 2014

In honor of National Arbor Day on April 28, 2017, hug a tree and then plant a tree.

“He who plants a tree plants a hope.” —Lucy Larcom

Arbor Day Beginnings

Julius Sterling Morton, a Nebraska pioneer from Detroit, Michigan was instrumental in bringing about the first Arbor Day. He advocated planting trees for practical reasons and probably because he and other pioneers missed the trees they had left behind in their more forested native states. The first Arbor Day was on April 10, 1872. Nebraska gained nearly a million trees that day.

The Arbor Day movement grew and spread to other states and to other countries. At some point, the last Friday in April became the official day to observe National Arbor Day. However, dates vary by state and country to coincide with the best tree-planting weather.

Trees Give Life

Trees are beautiful in their own right. They collaborate with other trees, plants, and wildlife to form complex and self-sustaining ecosystems. People know that trees are important but we do not necessarily understand how everything ties together.

Long before people came along, trees were growing in most places on Earth.

Once we arrived on the scene, our ancestors soon discovered how to make use of trees whether it was just enjoying their shade on a hot day, harvesting fruit or nuts for food, or gathering twigs and branches and burning them for heat and cooking.

At some point, people realized they could cut down trees and make a myriad of things from wood like buildings, furniture, and paper. We also figured out that certain trees contain medicinal properties and produce useful items like latex and resin. Later we learned about how trees grow and function, that they take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, store carbon, prevent erosion, filter water, and influence rainfall.

So you would think, or at least I would, that we would protect the trees growing now and replace the trees that have been lost through natural causes or our own folly.

I am trying to do my part on our little plot of land and supporting tree planting in other areas. Please do your part by either planting a tree yourself or enabling someone else to plant one on your behalf.

I was a Tree Hugger before I became a Tree Hugger

Trees have always been fascinating to me. Each one is unique. Trees are beautiful swaying in the wind or silhouetted black against a fading sunset. They make their own music with the rustling of dry leaves, the whispering of pine needles, or the roaring of trees whipping back and forth in a windstorm.

Trees are smart working with other nature community members to the benefit of the whole. They are also competitive and strong. The trees that grow towards the sun and spread their branches the fastest get the most sunlight. If injury or illness befalls a tree, it will attempt to heal itself even giving up a limb if necessary.

I talk to trees and I have hugged quite a few trees. It would be cool if trees could talk to people. Maybe trees can talk, but we do not understand their language, yet, or perhaps they choose not to talk with us.

It would be interesting to hear the stories trees could tell about what has occurred around the location they have occupied for decades or even centuries.

Imagine living your entire life in the same location. I do not mean the same house or the same town I mean the same exact spot. That is what a tree does.

A bird, bee, animal, the wind, or gravity transports tree pollen or seeds to a location. If something or someone does not eat it and the conditions are favorable, a tiny seedling sprouts. Healthy soil, adequate water, sufficient sunlight, lack of predators, and genetics all contribute to helping the tree grow and live to a ripe old age. When the tree dies, it nurtures the soil and wildlife where it lived, completing the circle.

I observe trees and wonder about things like how does a tree feel when its neighbor falls over in a storm and ends up tangled in its branches. Is the tree wishing it could shrug off the fallen tree? Does it try communicating the tree equivalent of “Please get off me?”

Does a tree feel sad when a tree that has been standing next to it for 75 years dries up and withers away during a drought? Does it feel survivor guilt? When seedlings appear beneath a grown tree, does it happily welcome them as new members of the family?

Where I live now, in the heart of struggling forest of Monterey pine trees that have suffered 5 years of severe drought, I feel bereft whenever a tree dies and joy whenever I spot a new seedling.

I love trees, yet I am a heavy user of wood and paper. What can I do? What can you do?

  1. Go hug a few trees and thank them for everything they give us.
  2. Be mindful and grateful for the things you use that are made of wood and paper, and do not waste them.
  3. Make planting at least one tree an annual tradition. If you cannot plant a tree yourself, then support someone who can. If Arbor Day is not a good tree-planting day where you live, then pick a day that is.

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a pine, one need only own a shovel.” —Aldo Leopold

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Arbor Day 2014 – Plant a Tree in Your Yard

In honor of the 142nd Arbor Day, let’s celebrate trees and plant one. Last year I planted an avocado seedling, we’d grown from a pit, in our yard. Unfortunately, it had a mishap so I’m trying again this year.

Beautiful, Big Chestnut Tree

Trees are beautiful in their own right and good for the environment and people. Tree leaves and needles absorb carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen. They store carbon in their branches and trunks. Roots anchor and feed trees, help the soil retain moisture and prevent erosion. Trees provide shade, food, flowers, wood, and habitat for plants and animals.

Arbor Day Background

Nearly a million trees were planted the first Arbor Day held in Nebraska on April 10, 1872. Julius Sterling Morton, a member of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, who later became the 3rd U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, proposed Arbor Day as a tree-planting holiday to encourage planting trees for their beauty and utility.

Arbor Day spread from Nebraska to other states which adopted their own dates and traditions. At some point, the last Friday in April was settled on for national Arbor Day.

10 Facts about Avocados

  1. Avocados are fruits.
  2. California produces approximately 90% of the U.S. avocado crop.
  3. Avocados ripen about 7 to 10 days after being picked.
  4. About 43% of U.S. households buy avocados.
  5. A mail carrier and horticulturist, Rudolph Hass, created the Hass avocado in 1926.
  6. An avocado tree can grow to a height of over 60 feet.
  7. Avocados are also called alligator pears due to their shape and green bumpy skin.
  8. At about 250 calories each, avocados are chock full of healthy monounsaturated fats, nutrients, and antioxidants.
  9. On average, a single avocado tree produces 150 avocados each year.
  10. Storing part of a leftover avocado with its pit in the fridge will help it stay green and fresh longer.

Growing an Avocado Tree from a Pit

Avocado Pit Growing Root and Seedling in Glass Jar Filled with WaterThe year before last, my spouse, an avocado eating fan, decided to attempt growing an avocado tree from a pit.

The avocado pit was stuck with toothpicks and perched on the rim of a glass jar filled with enough water to slightly submerge the flat end of the pit. The jar was placed on the counter in our kitchen’s sunny bay window next to the dish drainer that never seems to get put away.

After the pit cracked opened several weeks later, it was fun to see first the root and then a tiny sprout being to grow.

When the seedling was about six inches tall, we planted it in our yard inside a chain link fence area installed by a former owner. We live in a forest where deer and other critters roam freely so if you want to grow anything from a rosebush to an avocado tree; it must be within an enclosure.

The little avocado tree grew at a snail’s pace. We occasionally watered it by hand and kept the weeds at bay. After a year and a half or so, it was about 24 inches tall. We were well on our way to making guacamole from our own avocados in ten to fifteen years. Until a few weeks ago, when we accidentally left the fence gate open.

Tiny Avocado Tree in Author's BackyardIn the morning my spouse saw a young doe grazing inside the fenced area and noticed the open gate. The deer was just eating weeds but we decided to close the gate later that day. The next morning, the deer was back, this time having jumped over the fence. She was serenely munching off the top leaves of the tiny avocado tree. That did it. My spouse went outside which startled the deer and she jumped back over the fence.

We’ve seen her since then but not inside the fence. Whew! The avocado tree looks like it will survive the unexpected haircut.

Arbor Day Avocado Tree Seedling Planting – Round One

My spouse thought we should have at least two avocado trees to ensure the avocado flowers would be pollinated and grow avocados. So we grew another seedling to join it’s slightly larger cousin already growing in the yard.

On Arbor Day last year, I carefully selected a location within the chain link fence, not to close to the composters, and about 15 feet from the other tiny avocado tree and the huge Monterey pine tree already occupying the area. I dug a hole, placed the seedling in it, piled the dirt back in, and gave the seedling a drink. I checked on it daily. All went well for about a week.

One afternoon, after emptying the compost pail into the composter I glanced over at the little seedling. It had been dug up and was lying on its side shriveled up. I walked over to investigate. Apparently, I had planted the seedling in the middle of a vole underground highway project intersection. When the tunneling voles reached the tree pit, they viewed it as a construction impediment, dug it up, and pushed it aside.

I tried to revive the seedling by planting it in a new location, but it didn’t make it.

Arbor Day Avocado Tree Seedling Planting – Round Two

Newly Planted Avocado Seedling in Author's BackyardNot deterred, my spouse grew another avocado seedling from a pit. It’s been in a water filled jar for several months and we keep saying we need to plant it but haven’t done so. As Arbor Day approached, I decided it presented an ideal opportunity to not only plant the seedling but redeem my Arbor Day disaster from last year.

The voles have relocated to another part of the yard so I planted the avocado seedling in a similar area to last year. Perhaps in a decade or so our two little avocado trees will grow up and bear fruit. That is if the voles don’t move back in and we remember to keep the fence gate closed.

Call to Action – Plant Your Own Tree

For Arbor Day select a seedling, sapling, or grown tree and plant it in your yard. Don’t have a yard of your own? Help plant a tree at your apartment complex, local school, or a neighborhood park.

“Arbor Day is not like other holidays. Each of those reposes on the past, while Arbor Day proposes for the future.” —Julius Sterling Morton

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