EXTENSION CONNECTION: Plant a tree on Arbor Day, Jan. 17

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 05:02 PM.

The best time to plant a tree is, well, 20 years ago. The second best time is Arbor Day 2014.

Florida recognizes the event on the third Friday in January, so the next observance is Jan. 17.

Arbor Day is an annual celebration of trees' role in our lives; we promote and plant trees on this holiday, which was first observed on April 10, 1872.

The idea for Arbor Day in the U.S. began with Julius Sterling Morton, a journalist and nature lover who in 1854 moved from Detroit to present-day Nebraska — and noticed there were virtually no trees there. So he wrote and spoke about environmental stewardship and encouraged everyone to plant trees.

Morton said that trees were needed to act as windbreaks, stabilize soil and to provide shade, fuel and building materials for early pioneers to prosper in the developing state.

The State Board of Agriculture accepted an 1872 resolution by Morton "to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit." The first Arbor Day, on April 10, 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska.

By 1920, 45 states and territories celebrated Arbor Day and, eventually, the observance became a nationally recognized holiday. In 1970, then-President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day.

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