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

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.

Today, all 50 states observe Arbor Day, usually when it's the optimal climate for planting trees. In Florida, the ideal time is January, so Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month.

Similar events are observed throughout the world. In Israel, it is the Tu B Shevat (New Year for Trees) on Jan. 16, 2014.

Germany has Tag des Baumes on April 25.

Japan and Korea celebrate an entire week in April.

Even Iceland, one of the world's treeless countries, observes Student’s Afforestation Day.

Trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations. The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and some day provide wood products, wildlife habitat erosion control, shelter from wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children.

Sheila Dunning is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Service in Crestview.