Being a horticulturalist, I love a good excuse to talk about plants and there are few better times to talk trees than the month of February. Each year on the third Friday in February, Georgia celebrates its state Arbor Day – a holiday that celebrates the planting, upkeep and preservation of trees. “Big deal,” you might think. “Arbor Day is about like Groundhog Day. Everybody knows it is a holiday but it really isn’t very important.”
Well, I beg to differ with you on that point. In a world where everyone is focused on the challenges of today and trying to make ends meet, Arbor Day is a time to think about the future. We enjoy standing in the shade today because someone took the time to plant a tree a long time ago. We plant trees for our children.
The appreciation of trees and forests in modern times is largely attributed to Arbor Day, which literally translates to “tree” day from the Latin origin of the word “arbor.” The very first American Arbor Day occurred on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska. It was initiated by newspaper editor and Secretary of Agriculture, Julius Sterling Morton. On that day, over a million trees were planted in the area!
Many of our coastal counties get a lot of compliments from visitors who are impressed with the beautiful tree cover around our towns. This isn’t an accident. Some towns are virtually barren of trees. Our predecessors; however, took the time to invest in our towns’ futures by planting trees.
Travel around Liberty County and you will see a number of ancient trees. Several generations have enjoyed their shade and majestic beauty. A number of streets still have old dogwood trees that have produced cheerful spring blooms for years. Then, there are the fabulous long leaf pines and bald cypress trees that tower high into the sky, both of which are keystone species in our unique coastal ecosystems. Don’t forget the spectacular live oaks out in Sunbury or the giant sycamore at the Bacon Fraser House.
Sure, some of the trees around our town sprouted naturally but many of them were intentionally planted by someone long ago. They were good stewards. Unfortunately, the work of stewardship never ends. Through the years we have lost a lot of trees. Powerful storms and hurricanes have taken some. Insect and disease have also taken their toll. A lot have been lost due to construction. Some have just reached the end of their lifespan, as all living things must do at some point. As our county continues to grow, it would be easy to lose our valuable tree cover.
Fortunately, a number of folks in the city and county have taken the initiative to replace some of the trees we have lost. The City of Hinesville and Liberty County have both benefitted the planting of many trees, which will continue to benefit us in the years to come.
Trees improve air quality by removing pollutants and producing oxygen. If you are concerned about global warming, then it is important to remember that trees sequester carbon helping to reduce the greenhouse effect. Tree roots help reduce erosion on our sandy soil. Their shade helps to reduce the “heat island” effect seen in paved areas. This helps reduce energy costs and actually has been proven to reduce the frequency of sealing or repaving parking lots and streets. Trees improve water quality and provide habitat for wildlife.
Even if you are strictly a “bottom line” kind of person, trees benefit you. Consider the fact that research has shown that homes that were adequately landscaped with trees were appraised 5-15% higher than similar homes without trees. Research on 844 home sales in Athens, Georgia showed that landscaping with trees was associated with an increase of up to 4.5% in the sales price. If you are a retailer, research has also demonstrated that people tend to linger longer and shop more in areas that are shaded by trees. Healthy trees outside your business are important! Researchers have even found that apartments that are shaded by trees tend to have lower vacancy rates.
This Arbor Day, take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to plant a tree. If you have adequate space, I suggest that you plant a long lived species like one of the oaks. If you’re short on space, consider a smaller tree species like an eastern redbud or Florida/Southern sugar maple. Get involved in community tree planting activities! Sure, it will benefit our generation but most of all you will be leaving our community in better shape for our children.
On February 25, Liberty County Extension’s 4-H Forestry Club will be celebrating Arbor Day at Veterans Memorial Walk, located at Bryant Commons Park. The Club will be planting a tree to honor our Veterans, and show appreciation to those who serve, have served and those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. You are welcome to come out and attend the tree planting, which will take place at approximately 4:30 PM.
Have questions on when, where or how to plant a tree? Need help selecting the right type of tree for your yard? Give us a call at 912-876-2133 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!