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Arbor Day - 2017, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights May 2017.
Chinkapin Oak, Quercus muehlenbergii

Arbor Day, celebrated Friday, April 28, has its “roots” in Nebraska. J. Sterling Morton described Nebraska as a “treeless prairie” when he moved here from Michigan in 1854. He proposed a tree planting holiday to the State Board of Agriculture in 1872. The first Arbor Day was observed in Nebraska on April 10 that year and more than a million trees were planted in Nebraska.

In 1885, Arbor Day became a legal holiday in Nebraska and was moved to April 22, Morton’s birthday. It remained on April 22 until 1989, when the day it was observed in Nebraska was changed to the last Friday in April.

Arbor Day is observed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. However, when it is observed will vary because the day frequently coincides with the optimum time to plant trees in that geographic area and this will vary greatly between states.

Arbor Day, or a similar holiday such as Tree Planting Day, is also observed in over 40 other countries. Japan was the first country, other than the United States, to observe Arbor Day... starting in the late 1800's. Other tree planting festivals have been documented as early as 1594 in Spain.

Now here are a few questions about trees and Arbor Day.

  • What two states observe Arbor Day the earliest in the year... and when?
    • Florida & Louisiana - Third Friday in January
  • What state observes Arbor Day the latest in the year... and when?
    • South Carolina - First Friday in December
    • Honorable mention - Hawaii - First Friday in November
  • What is the most popular date for observing Arbor Day?
    • Last Friday in April - Nebraska, 23 other states & the District of Columbia
  • What two states have two state trees?
    • Nevada (Single-leaf Pinyon Pine and Bristlecone Pine)
    • California (Coast Redwood and Giant Sequoia)
  • What two states have nut trees as their state tree?
    • Ohio (Ohio Buckeye)
    • Texas (Pecan)
  • What two states, besides Nebraska, have cottonwood for their state tree?
    • Kansas
    • Wyoming
  • What is the most popular state tree?
    • Sugar Maple - New York, Vermont, West Virginia & Wisconsin
  • What is the oldest living tree?
    • A bristlecone pine estimated to be over 4,000 years old.

What is America’s national tree?
Most people don’t realize we have a national tree. In 2004, the National Arbor Day Foundation hosted a vote on its website for a national tree. The winner by a significant margin was the oak tree. In December 2004, Congress passed legislation designating the oak as America’s national tree, touting its infamous strength. A specific species was not selected because different species of oak are better adapted in different parts of the country. The redwood came in second place, and the dogwood, maple and pine rounded out the top five contenders.

For more information on tree selection, planting and care, contact your local Nebraska Extension office or the Nebraska Forest Service.

Image of John Wilson
John Wilson
Extension Educator - Innovative Cropping and Water Systems

Location: Based in Burt County with responsibilities in Thurston and Dakota counties; statewide responsibilities with soybean cyst nematode education
Program Areas: Crop Production, particularly corn, soybeans & alfalfa; integrated pest management, particularly insects, diseases & nematodes
Focus Area: Soybean cyst nematodes and soybean diseases
Education: BS and MS degrees in agronomy (crop production option) from University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Contact John at:
Burt County Extension
111 N. 13th St, Ste 6
Tekamah NE 68061-1098
(402) 374-2929