The City of Kahoka celebrated Arbor Day on Friday, April 18 with a proclamation signing by Mayor Herb Butler and a tree planting in the City Square later on April 25. The actual Arbor Day holiday is observed on April 22. The term “Arbor Day” gets tossed around quite a bit and so readily spoken of that many included this reporter was curious about the holiday’s history.
The idea of an Arbor observance came from the state of Nebraska and there are still areas of that state that would make one scratch his head about why a tree celebration would begin in that state. It began in that state in 1854, when among the travelers to settle in Nebraska was J. Sterling Morton, who was originally from Detroit.
Morton and his wife loved the out of doors and when settling their home, they planted trees as well as shrubs and flowers. According to the Arbor Day website, Morton was a journalist and would become the editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper. Because he had access to a newspaper he was able to get the message out about agriculture as well as getting out the message of how important trees really were. His readers also missed the trees that they had once been surrounded by in the states that they had left to move to Nebraska. Morton encouraged tree planting in his editorials as well as articles, but not only tree planting by individuals, but by civic organizations as well. Trees were desperately needed not only as windbreaks but also as simply shade from the hot sun. As his importance grew, Morton would eventually be named as secretary of the Nebraska Territory, which only gave him another forum, where to preach his tree message.
It would be on January 4, 1872, during a State Board of Agriculture that Morton first proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called “Arbor Day”. Arbor Day was set for April 10, 1872, with prizes being offered to counties and individuals for planting properly the largest number of trees on that day. It was estimated that more than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.
On March 12, 1874, Nebraska’ Gov. Robert W. Furnas officially proclaimed April 10, 1874 as Arbor Day. In 1885 Arbor Day was made a legal holiday in Nebraska, and because April 22, was Morton’s birthday, that day was named as the date for the official holiday.
According to accounts from the Nebraska City News, April 1885, the City celebrated Arbor Day with a grand parade and a speech by J. Sterling Morton. Students of different grades met at their respective school rooms in the morning for the purpose of planting at least one tree. Each tree that was planted was labeled with the grade, the time planted, and was to be specially cared for by that grade.
When the plantings were completed, 1000 students formed a line to begin the parade from the various schools to Nebraska City’s opera house.
With regret we casually take for granted trees the same as we do Arbor Day, so to get a perspective on the importance of trees in our lives, Jason Jacobson, Resource Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation over Clark, Lewis and Scotland counties was interviewed and his thoughts shared. According to Jacobson, ” The benefits of a tree are many and some of greater importance than others. First of all, with trees in your yards you will attract wildlife and people enjoy having wildlife to watch and hear, whether it birds or squirrels. Of more importance, trees can add up to a 20%
See ARBOR DAY, Page 16
increase in a home’s overall value when compared to similar homes without landscaping. The cost of planting trees is pretty minimal when compared to what you get back in beauty and even air quality. They have even done surveys in larger cities where trees in certain neighborhoods had a somewhat calming effect and there was less violence and people were just simply happier. And perhaps what is the greatest asset gained by planting trees is the economic benefit because of shade on our homes during the summer makes it easier to keep them cool. By the same note, wind breaks of conifers planted along the north and west side of your home can reduce the heating cost of your home as they stop your home from getting hit directly by that colder wind during the winter.”
Jacobson continued, “The biggest mistake when people plant trees is not to look at the overall picture of how that tree will appear when mature. For example planting trees under a power line is no big deal when the tree is a seedling, but ten years later you will have problems when the tree is growing up and into that same power line. You also have to take into account what kind of tree you may want and will it meet your needs. A great many people go for the Silver Maple because of its quick growth, but its root system can just as quickly get into foundations. You have to remember there is nearly as much tree underground as what you see above ground, for example a twenty foot tree will have a root system that can reach out twenty feet So location is key to planting a tree. Another mistake that people make is when planting a tree make sure and follow those instructions that come with it. If the tree’s root wad is in burlap, remove that burlap. And make sure that the hole is large enough to accommodate that root wad. And be sure and keep the tree mulched to hold moisture as well as keeping the grass away from the base of the tree, as the young tree will have to compete with that grass for moisture. And a great many trees are damaged either by mowing and hitting the tree or with string trimmers that get into the tree and cause serious damage.
Everyone wants to get that shade as quickly as possible, but as a rule the quicker the tree reaches maturity such as the maples, the shorter life expectancy the tree will have. But away from your home a maple will work. I recommend for quick shade that people go with the poplar and something like that, as the maple trees are just a messy tree. In Kahoka, I recommend an assortment of trees but what works best, pecans, northern red oak, black oak, white oak, bur oak, pin oak, Kentucky coffeetree, river birch, hackberry, sycamore, white pine, Norway spruce, baldcypress, and skyline locust.
I have several pamphlets that I have available for ideas to consider when tree planting or trimming and would encourage folks to reach me at the office by calling 727-3356 or they can e-mail me at [email protected] However for detailed information on tree species regarding size, longevity, seed, etc. you can go to the web at http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/silvics_manuel/table_of_contents.htm”
Trees play a major role in our lives and like a great many things taken for granted, perhaps the most famous tree poem in the world sums it up best: TREES
By Joyce Kilmer
I think that I shall
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry
mouth is pressed
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at
God all day
And lifts her leafy
arms to pray;
A tree that may in
A nest of robins
in her hair;
Upon whose bosom
snow has lain;
lives with rain.
Poems are made by
fools like me,
But only God can
make a tree.