Happy Arbor Day to North Carolina and Arizona

Last week, Californians observed Arbor Week and New Mexicans marked Arbor Day. Now, it’s North Carolina and Arizona’s turn to celebrate.

Both states celebrate the holiday earlier than National Arbor Day to align with the best time of year for planting.

North Carolina is the Tar Heel State – and the Tar Heel also serves as the mascot for the flagship University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill. The best guess is that the name comes from the tar and pitch produced by the state’s large pine forests.

North Carolinians appreciate their state’s urban and state and national forests on the outer banks, the Appalachian Mountains and everywhere in between.

The North Carolina Forest Service also sponsors an Arbor Day Poster Contest every year, with the 2012 winning entry from a Kinston fifth-grader shown above.

The state is home to 74 Tree City USA communities, accounting for a total population of nearly 3.7 million. The largest Tree City USA in North Carolina is Charlotte, population 726,000; the smallest is Bath, population 304.

Like in neighboring New Mexico, Arbor Day is more understated in Arizona, in part because large deserts make tree planting a challenge.

Arizona’s unique climate makes it hospitable for a number of trees that would be unable to survive elsewhere, like the Arizona Cypress. A southwest native with soft- textured gray and green foliage and rough shredding gray brown bark, the Arizona Cypress thrives in hardiness zones 7 through 9, which effectively excludes much of the country.

The State of Arizona is currently home to 22 Tree City USA communities, accounting for more than 4 million people. The largest Tree City USA in Arizona is Phoenix, population 1.5 million; the smallest is Quartzsite, population 3,600.