Cooperative Extension Service 
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Extension, P.O. Box 68, LaBelle, Florida 33975-0068   Phone (863) 674-4092

Hendry County Horticulture News

Arbor Day - He Who Plants a Tree Plants a Hope

Many people are unaware that Arbor Day in Florida occurs on the third Friday in January.  Our state tree is the Cabbage Palmetto. Founded by  J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in 1872, Arbor Day is a nationally celebrated observance that encourages tree planting and tree care. National Arbor Day is celebrated each year on the last Friday in April. Other state Arbor Days are at other times to coincide with the best tree planting weather, from January and February in the south to May in the far north.

J. Sterling Morton was a journalist and the editor of Nebraska's first newspaper. Given that forum, he spread agricultural information and his enthusiasm for trees to an equally enthusiastic audience. His fellow pioneers missed their trees. But, more importantly, trees were needed as windbreaks to keep soil in place, for fuel and building materials, and for shade from the hot sun. The first Arbor Day was celebrated in the state of Nebraska in 1872, in response to a state proclamation urging settlers and homesteaders in that prairie state to plant trees that would provide shade, shelter, fruit, fuel, and beauty for residents of the largely treeless plains.

Morton stated, "There is no aristocracy in trees. They are not haughty. They will thrive near the humblest cabin just as well as they will in the shadow of a king's palace. There is a true triumph in the unswerving integrity and genuine democracy of trees."

On that first Arbor Day, more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska's communities and on its farms. The Arbor Day idea was promoted by Morton, who later helped the idea spread to neighboring states and eventually to all of the United States and many other nations.

Trees enhance the beauty of the landscape and make towns, parks, streets, businesses and homes more inviting.  They add a natural character to our neighborhoods that gives a feeling of well-being.  In addition, trees provide a multitude of other benefits that may not be so readily apparent.

Trees are natural filters of air and groundwater.  They can remove carbon dioxide and pollutants from the environment.  A single tree can absorb 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.  Carbon dioxide is one of the so-called greenhouse gases implicated in climactic change.  Research has shown that neighborhoods that are planted in trees are less dusty than similar neighborhoods without trees.  Trees may be likened to living dust mops: a well developed canopy can intercept up to 50 pounds of particulates per year.  While absorbing carbon dioxide, trees release oxygen into the air.  In one year, a single tree can produce about 13 pounds of oxygen.  This is enough to sustain a family of four.

Trees can help reduce cooling and heating bills.  Properly placed trees help conserve energy by shading and cooling buildings in the summer and by blocking cold winds in the winter.  The average sized tree transpires about 80 gallons of water per day.  The evaporation of this amount of water from a tree produces a cooling effect equal to that of about five room size air conditioning units.  The cooling effect attributed to trees results in an annual savings of $2 billion or approximately 5 percent of US energy consumption.  Trees can also increase or decrease the amount of wind reaching a building if planted in the right location.

Tree roots hold soil in place and prevent erosion.  Trees assist in storm water control.  Leaves and branches slow falling rain allowing it to soak slowly into the ground, reducing the amount of  run-off and helping to recharge the aquifer.

Some trees provide food for us.  People plant trees, like orange and grapefruit, around their homes for the visual appeal as well as for the fruit they provide.  Trees also provide valuable shelter and food for many birds and animals.

In addition to their practical value, trees have aesthetic value.  They add a variety of colors, shapes, textures and patterns to the landscape.  Properly placed trees have a welcoming effect, provide privacy and act as ceilings for outdoor areas.  Research with clinical patients has shown that an environment well planted with trees have a healing and soothing effect compared to scenes without plants.  Other studies have demonstrated that trees and other plants in neighborhoods increase social activity, promote good community relationships and reduced vandalism.  Higher worker productivity and lower absenteeism have been reported where plants have been put in offices and planted around the workplace.

Important to homeowners is the fact that the property value of landscaped homes is five to 20 percent higher than that of non landscaped homes.  In addition, while living there you will receive all the other benefits that trees have to offer.

Celebrate Arbor Day in a personal way by planting a tree yourself. It is an act of optimism  and kindness, a labor of love and a commitment to stewardship.

Anyone can do it. Start a tree seed in a cup, or a seedling in a pot. If you have no place to set it out later, give it to someone who does, and then watch it grow together. Find a place to plant a seedling or a sapling or the largest tree you can handle alone.

It has been said, "He who plants a tree plants a hope."  Good luck and good gardening.

Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service.  Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975,  e-mail - or phone 863-674-4092 or  863-983-1598.  You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle.   Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an Equal Employment Opportunity - Affirmative Action Employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin.

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