Today is Arbor Day, the annual celebration of tree-planting and, well, all things tree-adjacent. The holiday has in existed in the U.S. in some capacity since its founding in Nebraska in 1872, when it was conceived by J. Sterling Morton, a pioneer from Michigan.
Clearly new to the region and perhaps unfamiliar with the botanical landscape of the Great Plains — which did not include many trees for a good number of reasons — Morton was dissatisfied with the lack of vegetation he was accustomed to in his native Detroit. Morton believed trees would be useful for lumber and fuel, helping his peers more effectively settle the otherwise barren, treeless lands. He used his position as a newspaper writer to advocate the planting of trees in various articles and editorials.
Morton later proposed an official tree-planting holiday and, as they say, the rest is history. It’s estimated that more than one million trees were planted on the first Arbor Day in Nebraska on April 10, 1872.
The U.S. is home to some of the world’s most incredible trees and natural structures, and while today is as good a day as any to celebrate these awesome arbors, we encourage you to explore these wonders all year round.
Besides, as a national holiday, Arbor Day is traditionally observed on the last Friday of April. In practice, however, not all states observe the holiday on the same date. Given that the celebration of Arbor Day conventionally includes the planting of trees, local observances are scheduled to coincide with optimal seasonal tree-planting conditions. This is why Florida gets an early start on the third Friday of January, while Maine holds off until the third full week in May.
So, if you didn’t make Arbor Day travel plans in advance, no worries! Some of these big guys have been around for centuries, and likely won’t be going away anytime soon.
Pando Aspen Grove
At first glance, an aspen tree grove looks like a regular bunch of trees. But aspen groves are unique in that each tall, slender tree is not a tree at all. Each “tree” is actually sprouted from a massive root structure shared with all the aspens around it. This means the “trees” are actually stems in one massive plant.
Pando is the largest, with up to 50,000 trunks (a.k.a. stems) and it’s estimated to collectively weigh 6,000 tons (6,000,000 kg) making it the world’s heaviest known organism. And with the roots estimated to be 80,000 years old, Pando is also one of the world’s oldest living organisms.
(At goTenna we’re quite fond of the aspen grove — so much in fact that we named our mesh networking protocol after it!)
Where to see it: Fishlake National Forest, Utah
Also known as the Sierra Redwood, the giant sequoia is a massive specimen with a storied history of people standing near their trunks with outstretched arms. And for good reason — these suckers are big AND tall. In fact, various sequoias hold the records for tallest and girthiest trees in the U.S., and the most famous ones have big-time names like General Sherman, President and Genesis.
Where to see it: Sequoia National Park, California
The rainbow eucalyptus tree’s name says it all. These uniquely vibrant beings actually get their stripes as the aged, red outer bark peels away, revealing immature green bark. While you’re probably not short on reasons to want to visit Hawaii, these trees are still an attraction all their own. Plus, like other eucalyptus species, they smell incredible.
Where to see it: Kauai, Hawaii
Let’s bring things on over to the East Coast with this 400-plus-years-old gnarly beast known as the Angel Oak. The Angel Oak is not a variety of tree, but rather a proper-nouned singular entity — a tree celebrity! — located near Charleston, South Carolina. Once you get there, enjoy the roughly 17,200 square feet of shade this guy has to offer.
Where to see it: Johns Island, South Carolina
The bristlecone pine is a magnificently twisted variety of tree that is best known for its staying power — the tree featured above, is often known by its Biblical name Methuselah and can live for thousands of years.
Where to see it: Methuselah is in the White Mountains in eastern California, while many other bristlecones can be spotted in Great Basin National Park, Nevada.
The actual Joshua tree (not the town, or the national park, or the U2 album) is a lanky, spiky, rugged variety of yucca. It’s known for its thick spines and odd funk, the Joshua tree thrives in the Mojave Desert and nowhere else. And here’s a fun Joshua tree fact: It’s not even a tree! It’s a cactus! We got you so good.
Anyway, here’s to Arbor Day. Maybe you’ll plant a tree. Maybe you’ll venture out to check out some unique trees. Maybe you’ll head to your local park and fall asleep under one. Here’s to trees!
Featured image: Pando Aspen Grove. Copyright: kids.nationalgeographic.com.