What does he plant who plants a tree?
He plants cool shade and tender rain,
And seed and bud of days to be,
And years that fade and flush again;
He plants the glory of the plain;
He plants the forest’s heritage;
The harvest of a coming age;
The joy that unborn eyes shall see—
These things he plants who plants a tree.
–Excerpt from The Heart of the Tree by Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896)
Arbor Day is observed on April 28th and coincides with spring and tree planting season. It sprouted from a zealous tree lover named Julius Sterling Morton, who had a passion for planting all kinds of trees. The first Arbor Day occurred on April 10, 1872, in Nebraska City, NE. One million trees were planted on this day.
By 1885, Arbor Day had become a legal holiday in Nebraska. Within 20 years of its creation, the holiday was celebrated in every American state except Delaware, which eventually joined in. Schools took up the shovel, and citizens alike started to plant trees in honor of special people and dates.
Who exactly was Julius Sterling Morton? Morton was born in Adams, NY in 1832. His life took a decisive turn on his wedding day in 1854, when he and his bride married in Detroit and headed west for adventure in the wilds of Nebraska Territory. The couple settled on 160 treeless acres. Despite having a busy career and four sons, Morton planted thousands of trees on the homestead he called the Morton “ranche.” He planted an apple orchard, as well as peach, plum, and pear trees, plus cottonwoods, evergreens, beeches, and more. He took up advocacy on the subject, giving speeches on agriculture, promoting tree planting and new crops. In 1893, President Grover Cleveland appointed him U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Today, the family home “Arbor Lodge,” is a state park in Nebraska City, Nebraska. Over the years, Arbor Lodge grew from a four-room home into a 52-room mansion, complete with a terraced garden, a pine grove, and 65 acres of more than 250 varieties of trees and shrubs.
J. Sterling Morton died at the age of 70 on April 27, 1902, writing just a month earlier that he hoped to plant trees as soon as the weather turned warm. A statue of him stands in the National Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C.
Arbor Day is observed in spring for the United States but globally dates vary depending on the region’s climate and planting season. It is a holiday to encourage people to plant and care for trees. 50 countries around the world celebrate Arbor Day.
Reference material taken in part from the following source(s): Old Farmer’s Almanac