Happy Arbor Day!

, former policy analyst, Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative | April 27, 2012, 2:56 pm EDT
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Today is National Arbor Day here in the US of A (dates differ in other countries), a day for people around the country to plant and care for trees and if you can’t do that it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the importance of trees and forests.  While I make a living thinking about trees, I rarely get a chance to step back and reflect on what they have meant to me. I have loved many individual trees and forests in my life, from those I played on while I was young to those I planted and studied in graduate school, and all have helped shape me and enrich my life.  I thought I’d take this opportunity share a few of them with you:

Apple Tree

My sister and I used to climb on this Apple tree more than on our actual monkey bars. It produced two different kinds of apples, neither of which tasted very good.

Fig Tree

We used this fig tree to get up on roof of our shed. It's seen better days, but it's still producing fruit!


This black walnut dominated our backyard but it was always too tall to climb.

Olive Tree

This olive tree was outside my first grade classroom. My classmates and I used to climb it after school while we waited for our parents to pick us up.


This oak used to be "base" during all of our lunchtime games of tag.


I used all of these seedlings in my first experiment in graduate school. Unfortunately, very few of them survived. (and, yes, that is a much younger me doing my best Indiana Jones impression)

Experimental Trees

This was one of my experiments in the field. My fellow student, Kristin Young, and I interplanted a number of species to "speed up" restoration. The artificial "trees" in the foreground were used as controls.

Safe arbor

Beyond reflecting on what trees have meant to me personally, I will also be spending part of today thinking the millions of people around the global who rely on forests for their food, shelter, and culture.  Forest loss and degradation means more than just carbon emissions and loss of biological diversity, it also means a loss of homes and livelihoods for peoples living in and around forests. In my time at UCS, I have had the privilege of working with folks from groups like Rights and Resources Initiative,  Global Witness, Care International and the Center for International Forestry Research who research and campaign tirelessly to see that the rights of forest dependent communities are respected and their homes preserved. These groups do great work and it is worth checking them out.

Go plant a tree!

plant a tree poster

This print is hanging above my desk at work. One of many prints I have by the folks at Brainstorm (http://wearebrainstorm.com/).

So, that’s what I’m doing this Arbor Day, what about you? The Arbor Day website lists lots of ways to get involved in tree planting events near you and check out the websites of the groups I mentioned above to find out more about defending the rights of forest dependent communities.  And, of course, I’d love to hear your stories about what trees have meant to you. Do you go apple picking every fall? Did you have a tree house growing up? Do you work with forests or trees? If you’ve loved a tree, I’d love to hear about it.

Happy Arbor Day and go plant a tree!

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  • Jo Anna Hebberger

    I too am a tree lover and have planted many trees in various locations as I have moved around the U.S. Since I am also an ecologist, I think it is important to plant native trees. There are many non-natives that are invasive and can be a major problem, for instance Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima), and Norway Maple (Acer platanoides).

  • richard

    I, too, have loved trees my whole life: from the 7 oaks we had in my backyard when i was a kid to the ones I loved to see from trains in Japan to the ones I hiked around in my neighborhood now. It was not intentional but I had TWO planted in our front yard today! These were small ones that I saved from the trash pile of one of our neighbors. Ie, they were going to get thrown out! Now they will grace my front yard and give me something nicer to look at than telephone wires and the roofs of the houses across the street.

    • Calen May-Tobin

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad to read that trees have meant a lot to you as well.