One man’s enthusiasm and love of trees literally grew into millions of the tall woody-trunked plants across the nation and to Arbor Day celebrations across our state today!
In the 1850’s J. Sterling Morton, a prominent Nebraska journalist and editor, planted the seeds for Arbor Day by advocating for the planting of trees in his articles and editorials. That effort eventually led to the nationwide celebration of Arbor Day. Not only did he and his friends miss the trees of their former home of Detroit, but they quickly discovered the necessity of trees. They realized trees could provide much-needed wind breaks to prevent soil erosion, shade in the heat of the day and wood for fuel and building supplies, not to mention a respite from the harsh prairie environment. Seattle’s City Arborist Nolan Rundquist, formerly a City Arborist from Nebraska, says even today cities throughout Nebraska and other Midwestern prairie states still maintain long rows of trees as wind shelters that were initially planted during the tree planting movement started by Morton well over a century and a half ago.
In Seattle, Rundquist has led SDOT’s Urban Forestry section in its effort to preserve trees, and to restore the urban tree canopy throughout the city and most recently has spear-headed the adoption of the SDOT Tree Ordinance. Urban Forestry has planted over 38,000 trees since the mid ‘70’s. While trees do indeed provide shade and windbreaks and materials for fuel and building, today Seattle particularly values them for their role in purifying the air; absorbing rainfall thus preventing slides in our particularly hilly geography; serving as habitat for birds and small mammals; and equally important to all those benefits – the pleasing aesthetic value, the serenity, they bring to our built environment.
Seattle, in contrast to the State, celebrates Arbor Day in late October because, as Rundquist explains, the optimum time for planting in Seattle is the fall when trees get plenty of moisture during the rainy months allowing their root systems to become well established on through the winter and into Spring before the heat of the summer arrives. This year, because Urban Forestry is working with a tight budget, all 500 trees to be planted will be in the ground by May 1. Why now, rather than the fall? Purchasing the trees at this time of the year is far less costly – about a third of the price of trees in the fall. Why you ask? The trees come bare root and are easy for nurseries to deliver without the bulk and weight of a tree rooted in soil. In the fall, because trees are shipped in soil wrapped in burlap or planted in pots, they are much more costly to ship and thus cost the City escalates. Rundquist says the biggest drawback to planting in spring is that the young trees will require a great deal of water to survive the warm summer months. Nonetheless, our Urban Forestry experts have crunched the numbers for this year and planned to provide the water necessary to give the youngsters a good start in life in their new home ground!
To learn more about trees and all the services our Urban Forestry section provides, please visit our website at: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/forestry.htm. And you can also find answers to everything you ever wanted to know about trees on the following website: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/treelinks.htm .