On April 10, 1872, the first Arbor Day was celebrated, with the citizens of Nebraska planting approximately one million trees throughout the state on that one day. As settlers moved into this largely treeless area from Eastern states, the value of trees to act as windscreens, provide shade, and help keep the soil in place was recognized. J. Sterling Morton, the editor of The Nebraska City News-Press, understood the importance of trees and began his mission to promote tree planting through his paper. Eventually, he became the Secretary of the Nebraska Territory and convinced the State Board of Agriculture to establish a tree planting day, or Arbor Day, now celebrated worldwide.
Throughout the United States, the last Friday in April is known as Arbor Day, which falls on April 29 this year. The Arbor Day Foundation has dedicated the last 50 years to planting trees in forests and communities around the world. However, there is a vast variation in climates throughout the United States, and most states designate a state-wide day appropriate for planting trees. In South Carolina, this date is the first Friday in December since trees in our climate better establish themselves during the winter months. Regardless of appropriate planting times, Arbor Day is set aside to celebrate trees and their benefits to our communities.
If you all will allow a personal note, my fraternal grandparents were both raised in the area surrounding Nebraska City. Their parents likely planted trees on their properties on that first Arbor Day; I know they both valued trees. Among my first memories is having my grandmother teach me to identify trees and the birds they feed and shelter, which has led to a lifelong interest in what we now refer to as our environment. Her passed-on knowledge reflected the spirit of Arbor Day, a unique holiday that looks to the future not only of the trees but the benefits trees will provide to future generations.
Check out Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy today and celebrate the magnificent trees in our conserved spaces and the local regulations that have protected them. We are not on the prairie, but our trees still shield us from strong winds, provide habitat for our wildlife, and hold our sandy soil to help mitigate flooding and erosion, among other benefits. You don’t have to be a “tree hugger,” but this may be a good day to step outside and look at the surrounding trees and vegetation. Perhaps that Grand Live Oak in your yard would appreciate a little pat!
-Submitted by Lucy Hoover, Seabrook Island Green Space Conservancy