James Settle, Roanoke, Virginia, Neighborhood Leader and Former Parks Advisory Board Member

James Settle“This stretch of road was a racetrack,” said Roanoke, Virginia, resident James Settle, recalling how speeding cars used to pour across a nearby bridge, down his street and past his family’s home.

Walking in James’ neighborhood was truly a dangerous proposition – until the City of Roanoke, a long-time Tree City USA recognized community, planted 26 ornamental and shade trees at the foot of the bridge. The trees grew into an effective entryway to the neighborhood and a buffer between busy traffic and single-family homes. The constancy of speeding cars subsided.

The new trees slowed traffic and made the neighborhood safer. In fact, James says he has never felt safer, and that the 26 trees made all the difference.

“If we could do only one thing as a neighborhood, we’d plant trees,” he said.

roanoke james sWhile other local neighborhoods hoped to realize the same safety benefits, a challenging budget situation reduced the overall number of trees that the city would be able to plant. Undeterred, James inspired a local volunteer group of tree stewards with the goal of giving every resident the same sense of comfort he now experiences.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Megan Ehlers, Ehlers Animal Care, Trees for Pets

Professional pet sitters, veterinarians, other animal care professionals, and all who love animal companions have a unique opportunity to honor, celebrate and remember the pets for which they care through the Arbor Day Foundation’s unique Trees for Pets program.

Launched in the winter of 2010, Trees for Pets allows animal care professionals to show just how special their clients’ pets are to them while at the same time making a difference in the world. Each Trees for Pets certificate honors a special companion by planting a tree in their honor or memory in our nation’s forests to help replace grand trees that are lost each year to fire or disease.

Megan Ehlers“Trees for Pets means so much to our clients.  We’ve received a very positive response from our clients because of our participation in Trees for Pets,” said Megan Ehlers, owner and veterinarian at Ehlers Animal Care in Lincoln, Nebraska. “We very much want to honor the passing of a loved companion. It helps create a sense of peace in a time of need. Our clients are moved by the simple act of planting a tree to honor the bond they shared with their pet, and they are touched that the acknowledgement of the love of their pet is making a lasting difference for generations to come through the planting of trees. One client’s thank you card shared that the tree planted was placed in a forest that his father used to reminisce about camping in as a child.  Moments such as these are profound for us, but most importantly to the healing process of our clients.”

Ehlers Animal Care has helped the Arbor Day Foundation plant 460 trees during the past four years through their participation in the Trees for Pets program.

Ttrees for pethey’re more than our pets. They’re our friends. They carve out a special place in our hearts and in our lives. What better way to honor them than with the gift of trees?

A meaningful and convenient way to honor the companions for which you care, Trees for Pets is easy to use. Online registration is available at http://www.arborday.org/animalpro/.

“Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.”

—George Eliot

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

 

#TreeCityUSATuesday

Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne has received Tree City USA designation for 24 years and has been awarded the Growth Award nine times.

Ft Wayne INFort Wayne is home to 250,000 residents and a diverse variety of activities including 15 museums and art galleries, a botanical conservatory, and three minor league sports franchises, not to mention the 86 public parks one can enjoy. The city’s 29% tree canopy coverage provides shade and beauty to those exploring the city.

Fort Wayne’s urban forest is comprised of more than 54,000 street trees that save the city nearly $300,000 in air filtration costs. In addition, the urban forest reduces energy expenses by $2.5 million and saves $1.7 million in stormwater management annually.

Is your city worthy of Arbor Day Foundation #TreeCityUSATuesday recognition?  If so, please tell us about it!

The Five Most Popular Christmas Trees

Number One: Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris)

The number one tree on The Arbor Day Foundation Five Most Popular Christmas Trees series is the Scots Pine, which is the top selling tree in the country. Scots Pines aren’t actually native to the United States; they were introduced through European settlers and have since been cultivated, especially in the eastern US. Their bright green color, excellent survival rate, and great needle retention make them the most popular Christmas tree on our countdown.

Scots PineeScots Pines (also known as Scotch Pine) are a hardy species adaptable to a wide variety of soils. They resist drying, and even when they do dry they refuse to drop their needles. In fact, when kept in water these pines will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks.  Scots Pines grow to more than 60 ft high and 40 ft wide. They are however a slow growing tree, which means it takes 6-8 years to produce a 7 to 8 ft Christmas tree. They naturally grow in an oval shape and are annually sheared to form the Christmas tree figure.

Scots Pines have high economic value in Europe and throughout Asia because they produce pulpwood —timber used specifically for paper production —poles, and sawlogs used in manufacturing plywood. They’re also popular in reclamation sites because of their easy replanting capabilities, with more than 35 seed varieties commercially recognized.

To learn more about the Scots Pine or any other tree visit our What Tree is That? tool.

Tell us about the tree you selected in our comments section below.

The Five Most Popular Christmas Trees

Number Two: The Douglasfir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)

Number two on our Christmas tree countdown is the Douglasfir. Discovered in 1826 by botanist-explorer David Douglas, Douglasfirs have remained important in American history.  Their tall structure, soft needles, and sweet aroma make them one of the most popular Christmas tree choices, accounting for nearly half of all Christmas trees grown in the United States.

Michelle Obama Hosts Christmas Volunteers At White HouseDid you know that Douglasfirs were also a candidate for America’s National Tree in 2001? (Check out the other candidates here.) Although they didn’t receive the title, they still demonstrate how connected they are with American history.  They helped settle the West by providing railroad ties and telephone & telegraph poles. They’re the most common tree in Oregon; eight of every ten conifers west of the Cascades are Douglasfirs. In 1936, the Oregon Legislature recognized the Douglasfir as the official state tree.

These trees are quite the warriors; they’re deer-resistant and seldom severely damaged. There are two geographical varieties of Douglasfir (which aren’t real Fir trees): Coast Douglasfir, native to the Pacific coast through Nevada, and Rocky Mountain Douglasfir, native to the inland mountains of the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains. The Coastal variety is faster growing, long-lived and can grow to be more than 300 ft tall. They’re versatile, growing in a variety of environments from extremely dry, low elevation sites to moist sites.

The national champion Douglasfir tree grows in Coos County, Oregon. It measures 329 ft tall with a crown spread of 60 ft, and diameter of 11 ½ ft ­­­­– that’s massive. According to the Oregon Encyclopedia, the largest known Douglasfir is in British Columbia on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It is 242 ft tall and 13.9 ft in diameter and the only known tree on earth—other than the Giant Sequoia and coast redwood— that has a diameter of 7 ft at 144 ft from the ground. What a beauty!

Douglasfirs are also the country’s top lumber source. Their wood is used widely in construction, laminated timbers, interior trim, boxes, ladders and flooring.

To learn more about the Douglasfir or any other tree visit the What Tree is That? tool.

Tell us about the tree you selected in our comments section below.

The Five Most Popular Christmas Trees

Number Three: The Balsam Fir (Abies Balsamea)

balsam fir decoratedNext on our Arbor Day Foundation Christmas tree countdown is the Balsam Fir. Balsam Firs (not to be confused with the Fraser Fir for their similar characteristics) are adapted to a wide variety of environments from swamps to high rocky mountain terrain, but thrive best in the cold climates of the northern United States and Canada. Its symmetrical spire-like crown, dense foliage and spicy fragrance make it another favorite among the most popular Christmas trees.

Young Balsam Firs have sticky, liquid resin blisters on the side of their bark. Fun facts — the benefits of the resin in these blisters are numerous. To start, it had been sold in stores as a confection prior to the advent of chewing gum, and resinous fir knots were once used as torches. The resin also features medicinal properties; during the Civil War the resin was used as a balm and applied to combat injuries.

Today, the resin is most commonly used as optical mounting cement for lenses and microscope slides, and can also be found in paints and polishes; talk about the tree that keeps on giving! If you’re ever lost in the wild and surrounded by Balsam Firs be sure to stay near them, they’ll probably be your best survival aid.balsam fir resin

Balsam Firs grow anywhere from 45-75 ft in height at a rate of 12” or less a year. Their slender forms fit great in tight spaces. It takes about 9-10 years to grow a 6-7 ft Balsam Fir Christmas tree.

Tell us about the tree you selected in our comments section below.

The Five Most Popular Christmas Trees

Number Four: The Fraser Fir (Abies Fraseri)

fraser firThe next tree on our Arbor Day Foundation Christmas tree countdown is the Fraser Fir, named after the Scot botanist John Fraser, who explored the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in the late 18th century, where these trees are naturally found. Fraser Fir’s have a unique history, according to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension office; they’re part of a remnant forest from the last ice age. They only grow naturally at elevations of more than 4,500 feet.

The needles on Fraser Firs are dark green on top, and silver underneath, with branches that turn slightly upward. Their uniform pyramid shape makes them an obvious choice as a Christmas tree. In addition to their pine scent aroma, Fraser Fir’s also have great needle retention after being cut, making them practical for families with children.

Speaking of children, a few years back a group of eighth grade students at Harris Middle School in Spruce Pine, NC started a petition requesting the Fraser Fir become North Carolina’s official Christmas tree. These bright, young minds learned that Fraser Firs were a significant part of the state’s economy. How significant? Well, 50 million Fraser Firs are grown on approximately 25,000 acres in North Carolina (that’s 90% of all of all the Christmas trees grown in the state). According to the NC Dept of Agriculture, in 2009 Christmas trees brought an estimated $100 million economic impact to the state.

biltmore estate

Fraser Fir in the Banquet Hall of Biltmore House

As it turned out, in 2005 the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation making the Fraser Fir the official Christmas tree of North Carolina — how cool is that!

If you want to experience North Carolina’s natural treasure pay a visit to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC during the holiday season. The Biltmore House is known for hosting one of the largest holiday displays in the Southeast, showcasing a 34-foot tall Fraser Fir in their Banquet Hall.

To learn more about the Fraser Fir or any other tree check out our What Tree is That online tool.

Tell us about the tree you selected in our comments section below.

The Five Most Popular Christmas Trees

Number Five: The Noble Fir (Abies Procera)

Each holiday season consumers hunt for just the right Christmas tree. Every year, 20-35 million living Christmas trees are sold in the US (National Christmas Tree Association). The high demand for Christmas trees has even lead to the creation of Christmas Tree Farms (15,000 in fact), whole farms devoted to growing trees used specifically for Christmas. And, for those of you in California, you can now even rent a living tree.

noble firIt can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of 6-7 feet. So the next time you’re decorating your tree, be sure to appreciate every needle it has to offer. We’ll dedicate the next few posts to the five most popular Christmas trees, starting with number five: the Noble Fir.

This rich blue-green tree has short needles that turn upward, exposing its branches. As a result, the stiff branches make it a fine tree for heavy ornaments. Noble Firs come in full and bushy to open layered varieties and can grow to more than 200 feet in height. Because they love moist soil, they’re most commonly found in the Cascade Range and the Coast Ranges of the Pacific Northwest of Washington and Oregon, and southwestern Canada.

Noble Firs are also used to make wreaths, door swags, and garland, with a stimulating pine scent that will fill your entryway. When these trees aren’t used for Christmas they make an excellent windbreak or privacy fence.

Looking for a tree seller in your area? Check out The National Christmas Tree Association‘s tree locator tool for a Christmas tree farm in your area.

Tell us about the tree you selected in our comments section below.

A Man and His Forest

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems of the world — to think that, despite all good intentions, one person cannot really change things. One story we’d like to share is a perfect counterpoint—how one person can make a tremendous difference to the people and the planet. Stories like this renew the urgency and importance of our work at the Arbor Day Foundation and inspire us all to continue to make a measurable positive difference.

Moved to action after seeing the effects a monsoon had on the wildlife of his river island home, Jadav Payeng, then only 16 years old, decided that he was going to do something about it. The area, a barren wasteland on the Jorhat sandbar in the Brahmaputra River, had been steadily washing away and was predicted by scientists to simply vanish  in as little as 15-20 years. Payeng began planting seeds in the sand in an effort to do something—anything—to help restore this place that so many humans and animals had called home.  Thirty years later, Payeng has reforested more than 1,350 hectares of land: a plot larger than New York’s Central Park.

A short documentary film recently celebrated the news of Payeng’s incredible accomplishment.

Our vision at the Arbor Day Foundation is to become a leader in creating worldwide recognition and use of trees as part of the solution to global issues. Payeng, who singlehandedly planted a forest where once there was nothing, is a living embodiment of this vision:

He is helping to combat climate change by restoring the land of his island, making it more resilient to rising sea level and resistant to erosion and effectively combating what would have been its eventual disappearance from the face of the earth.

He is actively reversing biodiversity loss through his reforestation work by recreating habitat and bringing species like tigers, rhinos (the Royal Bengal tiger and one-horned rhino being some of the endangered species), elephants, vultures, migratory birds and others back to the area.

He is strategizing for the sustainable preservation of his forest area with his plan to plant coconut trees: which may help alleviate hunger as well as provide a potential economic boon to the area and mitigate poverty.

It can be overwhelming to think of all of the challenges facing the world, and to think, ‘what could I, as one person do?’

Payeng may have thought that same question to himself, and he answered it by planting a tree.

Tour Des Trees

Last week, Arbor Day Foundation staff members Pete Smith and Matt Harris rode in the Tour Des Trees bicycle ride through Wisconsin as Team Arbor Day. During the seven day, 585 mile trek, Pete kept a journal recapping the day’s events.

Day 1: Milwaukee to Madison

petematt bikeWith a windy spring and summer in Lincoln, my training has taught me one useful lesson: the ride home is a lot more fun if you begin by heading into the wind.

Today’s 92-mile stage didn’t provide that, since Madison lies directly west of Milwaukee and we stared down a relentless 25-mph headwind for the entire day.

We made a brief stop in Waukesha (a Tree City USA community) for a tree planting ceremony. We concluded our night with dinner and a movie at the University of Wisconsin-Madison arboretum, where we dedicated a tree to the memory of the parents of Wisconsin state forestry coordinator, Dick Rideout.

Day 2: Madison to Wisconsin Dells

group treeAfter a tree dedication at the state capitol, we rode through the UW-Madison campus to trails that led out of town before our first climb up the Blue Mounds. The rocky hills were untouched by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet that ground down most of the surrounding landscape, and posed a steep challenge for our tour riders. Our tour director Paul called this stage the Queen’s Day— homage to the famous tour in France each July, referring to the toughest day on the tour. From the fast decent from Blue Mound State Park, we rolled through bucolic farmland and past wooded hillsides, to the toughest climbs of the day up to and out of Devil’s Lake State Park. Steep, switchback roads that refused to show an end in sight, pulling our modest peloton apart and stretching riders for miles.

But all who wanted to were able to finish the 105 miles of all that Wisconsin has to offer in natural beauty!

Day 3: Wisconsin Dells to Stevens Point

flowersWisconsin has already shown us many of her natural wonders, from bucolic farmland to wooded hills to wind and rain, but today she showed her milder side. We headed north along the Wisconsin River to Stevens Point.

Professor Elwood Pricklethorn’s (aka fellow rider, Warren Hoselton) lunchtime lesson to the children of Nekoosa on the wonders of photosynthesis was a big hit! So was the stop for ice cream near the end of our 87-mile “active recovery” day. We visited the UW-Stevens Point – a Tree Campus USA recognized campus for dinner—which graduates more students in urban forestry than anywhere else. We dedicated a tree to longtime professor Bob Miller with a ceremonial “watering” using Wisconsin’s finest!

Day 4: Stevens Point to Green Bay

giant hambAfter a tree dedication with local scouts, we found our way east along quiet country roads, past country chapels, gently descending all the way to Green Bay on a perfect summer day.

Our 100-mile effort was the fastest of the week so far, with our small group averaging 17 mph–up considerably from the 13 mph efforts of the first two days! Fair and gentle winds, flat terrain and good roads with light traffic made this century a memorable one.

Seymour, WI, claims to be the home of the first hamburger, memorialized in large form just at the edge of town. And as a nightcap, we toured the not-so-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.  And if the bus shows up to take us back to the hotel, I may even get some sleep tonight!

Day 5: Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay

911 tree plantingToday’s weather brought back memories of the day we left DC in 2001 after the National Urban Forestry Conference, only to be followed a couple days later by the tragedy of 9/11. The urban forestry community lost one of our own that day, Christine Snyder, who boarded Flight 93 and perished in a field in Pennsylvania. Joined by the city forester and mayor, we planted a tree at Tree City USA community Green Bay’s 9/11 memorial to honor all those we lost that day, a sapling grown from one of the only trees to emerge from the rubble of the twin towers at Ground Zero–a flowering pear tree.

A short recovery ride for most, a paltry 60 miles to the hotel.

But a hardy few of us took the scenic “bonus miles” tour of Door County to peek out along the shores of Lake Michigan, an additional 27 miles!

Day 6: Sturgeon Bay to Port Washington

lakeThere was a great deal of anticipation for today’s ride south, partly because it’s almost the end of the tour, but mostly because our legs are tired and the stage was 120 miles long.

Many riders left early to avoid being taken off the road at 5pm— myself included—watching the hazy sun rise above the glass-smooth surface of Sturgeon Bay. With Lake Michigan on our left the entire day, mostly clear skies and light winds, our progress was hampered only by our appetites–amply satisfied at each rest stop!

I want to pause to recognize the great work of Dick Rideout, the state urban forestry coordinator for the Wisconsin DNR. Dick has made the Tree City USA program the bedrock for community forestry in his state, and we witnessed his guiding hand as we rolled through dozens of Tree City USA communities along our tour. We heard mayors sing the praises of their city forester, in Madison, Stevens Point and Green Bay. They know what trees mean to their community and the importance of the TREE Fund. We riders are proud to represent the professions of arboriculture and urban forestry at the many events we conduct along our route.

Day 7: Port Washington to Milwaukee

group challengeOur final day is as much pomp-and-circumstance as it is a bike ride, just a short 42-mile “noodle” through leafy lakeside suburbs, staging at several spots to keep the 80+ riders together for the mass roll-in at the International Tree Climbing Championships being held at Mount Mary University. We had time for group photos of the various teams, as well as those sponsored by the various ISA chapters. We can be grateful for having the strength of mind and legs to pedal through more than 600 miles on behalf of the TREE Fund. As donors, you helped all of us raise more than $513,000 to support tree research and education projects around the country!

We can bask in the glory of rolling into the climbing championships to the cheers and applause of the real athletes of the day–those climbing arborists who work daily to care for our urban trees. This is the joy we share with one another, brought together by the love of trees and riding bicycles.

Epilogue

It seems like eons ago we left Milwaukee headed west. Time and miles melt away, leaving us with precious memories…and friends, both new and old. This was my third consecutive tour and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. I could tell when I filled out the informal awards ballot on Thursday night and knew who the “Most Improved Rider” (Laurie Skul) and the “Best New Rider” (Karen Jenkins) were. I think I could recite Professor Pricklethorn’s tree blessing in my sleep! These are my friends. Now and forever. I am indebted to them–and to you, dear sponsor for your support–and I offer my hand and a hug to you all…. Until next year, and the Sunshine State, I remain… Your friend in trees, Pete