Happy Arbor Day!

Julius S. Morton

Julius S. Morton Photo courtesy Nebraskahistory.org

Plant a Tree to Celebrate Arbor Day! Have you ever wondered how this national (and international) holiday got its roots? Arbor Day is an annual observance that promotes tree planting and care and reflects a hope for the future. As a formal holiday, it was first observed in 1872, in Nebraska.

In 1854, Julius Sterling Morton moved from Detroit to Nebraska City, Nebraska. Morton was a nature lover and felt that Nebraska’s landscape and economy would benefit from the wide-scale planting of trees. He set an example himself planting orchards, shade trees and wind breaks on his own farm and urged neighbors to do the same.

Morton  became editor of Nebraska’s first newspaper and used the paper to share agricultural information, ideas on environmental stewardship and his enthusiasm for trees to a receptive audience. He was ahead of his time as his own version of a master gardener!

In 1872, Morton presented the State Board of Agriculture a resolution “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.” The Board declared April 10 Arbor Day. More than one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. With this first tree planting holiday observance, J. Sterling Morton became known as the “Founder of Arbor Day.” Arbor Day did not become a legal holiday until 1885, when the legislature set aside Morton’s birthday, April 22, as the holiday.

Chinese pistachePhoto by Pamela M. Geisel

Chinese pistache Photo by Pamela M. Geisel

Today, National Arbor Day is celebrated in all fifty states the last Friday in April but many states observe Arbor Day on different dates throughout the year based on best tree-planting times in their area. As a state, California celebrates Arbor Day Week March 7-14.

For more information on planting and caring for landscape or fruit trees visit the UC California Garden Web website.

To learn more about Arbor Day, visit the Arbor Day Foundation Website.

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website.


Information and quotes cited in this blog can be found on Arbor Day Foundation & Arbor-day.net.


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  • Blog Author

    Marcy Sousa

    Marcy Sousa is the San Joaquin County UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator. She is a Stockton native and enjoys teaching others about gardening. She has her bachelors from Stanislaus State in Permaculture. She has been with the program since 2007. Read Full
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