Trees at Arlington

Memorial Day is filled with a day off of work spent with loved ones. Perhaps you’re attending a barbecue, doing some spring cleanup and yard work, or maybe you made plans to head camping or to the lake. For many people, Memorial Day revolves around the recognition of loved ones who have risked their lives, and maybe even gave their lives, for our freedom. For those interested in trees, history, and the ultimate sacrifice, attending the local Memorial Parade isn’t enough.

Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s most hallowed ground, is the final resting place for more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans and their families. This historic cemetery bears witness to our American heritage and the military service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform throughout our nation’s history. Families come from all over the country to bury their loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery. They come to Arlington because of the rich history of military honors that makes the service so special.

Rolling green hills, majestic trees and a diverse collection of ornamental plants serve as the backdrop to this national shrine. The cemetery’s 624 acres are a unique blend of formal and informal landscapes, and is home to an extremely diverse and significant collection of trees and landscapes. There are more than 8,600 trees comprised of 300 varieties and species. Intimate gardens enhance the beauty and sense of peace. Some of the cemetery’s oldest trees pre-date the first burials and are nearly 250 years old.
In addition to three Virginia State Champion and two Virginia State Co-Champion trees, trees of particular interest include the 142 Memorial Trees, the 36 Medal of Honor Historic Trees, as well as many magnificent specimen trees. Over the history of the cemetery, many trees have been planted and dedicated by visiting dignitaries, family members, organizations and presidents.

More than three million people visit the cemetery annually. Will you be one of them?

To all active and former servicemen and women, everyone here at Michigan Arbor Day Alliance would like to thank you for your service!

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More Trees, Please!

Ask any child what a tree provides for us, and you’ll probably hear shade, homes for animals, and fruit. Ask an adult, and they’ll probably answer lumber, oxygen,  and a fuel source.  However, if you ask an urban forester, you’ll get a much more diverse answer!

Related imageYes, trees provide shade. Anyone on a hot July afternoon can tell you that. But do you know how much shade? Trees provide enough shade to not only cool you, but your home and your car sitting in the driveway too! Trees have been proven to cool your home by up to 30% when planted in the right places. How would you like a 30% reduction of your AC bill every summer? Or how about saving up to 50% of your heating bill by preventing wind and snow from blowing up against your house, stealing your precious warmth in the winter?!

Additionally, if you are a home owner, studies have found that street trees increase the “curb appeal” of properties.  A study of the sale of houses in Portland, Oregon found that on average, street trees add 3% to the median sale price of a house and reduce its time-on-market by 1.7 days. And if you enjoy hosting garage sales or live in an area near fleet markets, consumers have a 12% higher willingness to pay for goods and services in retail areas that have streetscape greening such as street trees and sidewalk gardens.

Apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52% fewer crimes than those without any trees.  “Green” spaces are used more frequently (by pedestrians and for recreation), which increases “eyes on the street” and deters would-be criminals. Residents living in “greener” surroundings report lower levels of fear, fewer incivilities, and less violent behavior, because greenery promotes a greater sense of community and alleviates mental fatigue, a precursor to violent behavior.

Trees planted in an urban setting are excellent at providing food, clean air and water, climate and flood control, pollination, recreation and noise damping. Spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy level and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress. In fact, nature has such a calming effect, that some doctors are prescribing exercise and time spent in nature to help relieve things like high blood pressure and diabetes.

During rainstorms, water can overload our combined storm-sewer system, resulting in polluted runoff into local drains and rivers.  This runoff contains chemicals washed from our streets by the rain.  Trees reduce this problem by capturing rain; a mature tree can store 50 to 100 gallons of water during large storms, and the concrete removed from our sidewalks for street trees and sidewalk gardens allows rain to soak into the soil. In addition, trees planted along riverbanks can help keep the soil in place during flooding events, preventing sediment removal and deposition down stream.

In case you need more reasons to plant trees in an urban area, two medium-sized, healthy trees can supply the oxygen required for a single person for a year. Trees clean the air by absorbing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming; they store carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, in their stems and leaves. Trees capture airborne particles such as dirt, dust and soot; a mature tree can absorb 120-240 lbs of particulate pollution each year. Less pollution and particles can lead to less cases of asthma. The presence of trees reduces the speed of drivers, and reduces the frequency and severity of crashes. The greener a building’s surroundings, the fewer reported crimes. In addition, trees can save the city itself tons of energy and money. For every dollar invested in planting, cities see an average $2.25 return on their investment each year.

So to wrap things up, if given the opportunity to plant trees in an urban area, always say yes!

old town nowadays with trees

Old Growth Forests

Do you live in a house built in the first half of the 1900’s? Do you still have the original floors or window sashes? If so, these wooden features may be furbished from old growth forests? But what exactly does that mean?

A typical DNR definition, is that old-growth forests are natural forests that have developed over a long period of time without experiencing severe disturbance—a fire, windstorm, or logging. A great example is Hartwick Pines , here in Michigan, or the Redwoods in California; in fact, there are several old-growth forests throughout the US. Old-growth forests may be dominated by species such as sugar maple, white spruce, or white cedar that are capable of reproducing under a shaded canopy. These old-growth forests can persist indefinitely. Old-growth forest may also be dominated by species such as red pine, white pine, or red oak that do not reproduce as well under shade and that require disturbance to open the canopy. These old-growth forests will eventually be replaced by the more shade-tolerant tree species in the absence of disturbance.

Yosemite Protects old growth forests_Measuring Red Fir Credit NPS_M

Old-growth forests tend to have large trees and standing dead trees, multilayered canopies with gaps that result from the deaths of individual trees, and coarse woody debris on the forest floor. Forest regenerated after a severe disturbance, such as wildfire, insect infestation, or harvesting, is often called second-growth or ‘regeneration’ until enough time passes for the effects of the disturbance to be no longer evident. Depending on the forest, this may take from a century to several millennia. Hardwood forests of the eastern United States can develop old-growth characteristics in one or two generations of trees, or 150–500 years. In British Columbia, Canada, old growth is defined as 120 to 140 years of age in the interior of the province where fire is a frequent and natural occurrence. In British Columbia’s coastal rain forests, old growth is defined as trees more than 250 years, with some trees reaching more than 1,000 years of age. In Australia, eucalyptus trees rarely exceed 350 years of age due to frequent fire disturbance.

old forest growthSo how what does have old-growth wooden floors in your house mean? As previously stated, old-growth wood refers to wood from trees that belonged to forests that grew up over hundreds of years. A majority of today’s lumber is harvested from trees that have been cultivated to grow rapidly, so the wood is not as dense. As a result, it is weaker and more susceptible to decay and instability. Old-growth wood has nearly ten times the number of growth rings per inch (meaning that it is much denser) and is more resistant to decay or damage. Old-growth wood has distinct advantages over today’s wood: it is resistant to rot and termites, stronger and harder, and more stable. As seen in this photo, in 1918 there are 60 rings from an old growth tree. In 2018, there are only 16 rings on the same size chuck of lumber.

At the end of the day, if you have old-growth hardwood floors in your house, you’re sitting pretty. With a little TLC you can bring your hardwoods out and have them be the focal point of your room. We need to continue to preserve these ancient forests and keep them around for generations to come. There are many ‘tree huggers’ who are willing to put up a fight to protect these giants. Will you?


Wildfire Revitalization

What do California, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Michigan all have in common? They’ve all suffered through wildfires recently. Since January of 2018, more than 148,000 acres have burned across the county. All things considered, the 105 acres Michigan lost earlier this week are not too terrible, and we were lucky that no one was injured! Most Michigan residents might be surprised to learn that Michigan experiences as many as 8,000 to 10,000 wildfires each year.

Wildfire is nothing new to Michigan forests, as many of these systems evolved with fire and are dependent on disturbance for regeneration. Many plant and wildlife species have adapted to fire disturbance, and their continued survival and success is dependent on it. Fire not only prompts regeneration of many plant species, it recycles mineral elements like nitrogen and phosphorus, and removes accumulated organic matter.

While most folks (with the exception of brave fire fighters) run away from fire when they see it coming,  plants have a distinct disadvantage, compared to animals. They can’t run, fly, creep or crawl out of a fire’s path. But they have adapted to survive, and even depend on, regular fire. Several types of plants have developed unique properties that help them to survive, and even thrive after a fire.
-Thick bark – Trees in fire-prone areas develop thicker bark, in part, because thick bark does not catch fire or burn easily. It also protects the inside of the trunk, the living tissues that transport water and nutrients, from heat damage during low-intensity fires.
-Fire Induced Sprouts – Typically, species that regenerate by re-sprouting after they’ve burned have an extensive root system. Dormant buds are protected underground, and nutrients stored in the root system allow quick sprouting after the fire.
-Serotinous Cones – These serotinous cones can hang on a pine tree for years, long after the enclosed seeds mature. Only when a fire sweeps through, melting the resin, do these heat-dependent cones open up, releasing seeds that are then distributed by wind and gravity.
-Fire activated seeds – As opposed to serotinous cones, which protect enclosed seeds during a fire, the actual seeds of many plants in fire-prone environments need fire, directly or indirectly, to germinate. These plants produce seeds with a tough coating that can lay dormant, awaiting a fire, for several years. Whether it is the intense heat of the fire, exposure to chemicals from smoke, or exposure to nutrients in the ground after fire, these seeds depend on fire to break their dormancy.

Some of the plants that do quite well with fire are the famed Jack Pine, White Yarrow, Bearberry, Chokecherry, Holly, native Plum, Maples, Hackberry, Dogwood, Walnut, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Tulip tree, Black Gum, Sycamore, Aspen, Oaks, and even the delicious Morel Mushroom. To see a full chart of fire-resistant plants, see this MSU Extension listing!

In some areas of the world, where forests need a little help rejuvenating after a fire, trained dogs are being put to work to help spread seeds by running through the burned land with backpacks full of seeds that fall out as they run. For more information on these awesome seed dogs, click here!

So while the forest will eventually regenerate itself after a fire, please do not burn brush or trash, or toss lit cigarette on the ground when in a ‘red flag’ warning. And remember what my buddy Smokey says … only you can prevent forest fires!


10 Days Until Arbor Day…are you ready?!

The best part of April 27? It’s Michigan’s Annual Arbor Day!! The worst part? It’s only celebrated one day a year; and seeing how awesome trees are, they should be celebrated every day!

So what is Arbor Day? Arbor Day is a day dedicated to trees and all they do for us. From cleaning the air, to holding down river banks, and providing shade and wind block to reduce our energy bills. They provide paper products, food, shelter, and if you get a whole bunch of them together, a habitat! And the coolest part is the original founder of Arbor Day was a Michigander! J. Sterling Morton moved from Michigan to Nebraska, and noticed how barren the land was. In 1872, Morton got all his new fellow Nebraskans together and planted over one-million trees on the first celebration!!! Isn’t that insanely cool! My goal is to plant a million trees in my lifetime,  but they did it in one day!

But in all seriousness, there are only 10 days until Arbor Day. Have you decided how you’re going to be celebrating? If you haven’t yet had a chance to think about it yet, let me give you some ideas…

Tree City USA – Head over to our webpage to see the community events. Every City that is certified as a ‘Tree City’ has to hold an Arbor Day celebration every year. Feel free to contact the city nearest you to find out what is happening!

Not a certified ‘Tree City’? No worries! Tons of cities, towns, nature centers, and college campuses are hosting their own celebration! Join in the fun!

DNR Outdoor Adventure Center – Celebrate the 146th National Arbor Day by engaging with others as you learn how to choose and plant trees that are native and helpful to our Michigan ecosystems. Take a hike , at 1 p.m., to identify trees in Milliken State Park. The first 50 participants will receive a seedling to take home and plant.

DNR Work Days – If you love to volunteer your time and make natural areas more beautiful, then we have the task for you. Many State Parks across this beautiful state are offering workdays for Arbor Day. Call one near you to see if they are hosting an event, or check out which one is closest to you!

Conservation Districts – There are 72 Conservation Districts filled with folks trying to improve the land we live on. Many of these offices have demonstrations or workdays. If they don’t. Find the one that is local to you today!

If non of the above work for you, you can always head into your backyard to plant your own trees! The conservation districts often sell trees as a fundraiser, or you can head to your local landscape company or an MDARD certified nursery to pick up trees.

Happy Arbor Day and remember, he who plants a tree plants a hope!

India’s Forest Man

While the story of Jadav Payeng, India’s Forest Man isn’t brand new, it’s still a story I never get tired of.

In the northeast region of India, Payeng realized the severity of the changed landscape near his home. Years of flooding and river braiding had changed the Brahmaputra River and sandbars through the entire region. Fertile land gave way to miles of sandbars. Nothing was growing: there was no shade, there was no vegetation, and there was little life that chose to live in the area.

Unsettled by the reality, Payeng decided to do something about it: plant trees. While many locals chastised him for being foolish enough to plant trees in the area, he didn’t give up. After working on a reforestation project for 5 years, he started his own plantings and gardens, and took care of each and every sapling by hand. What started in 1979 as a bamboo stand has since evolved and populated into a 1,360 acre forest, brimming with life from birds, beetles, deer, monkeys,  bengal tigers, indian rhinoceros, and even elephants!

But the humble farmer says he can’t take all the credit. “It’s not as if I did it alone. You plant one or two trees, and they have to seed. And once they seed, the wind knows how to plant them, the birds here know how to sow them, cows know, elephants know, even the Brahmaputra river knows. The entire ecosystem knows.”

Trees can do so much for an environment. From stabilizing the river banks and cooling the water, to holding down the topsoil and providing moisture in the air; trees provide shelter and a habitat for all types of life, and once the smallest organisms arrive, they will be followed by larger and larger organisms. This new forest, named Molai Forest after Payeng, is nearly twice the size of New York’s Central Park! And he doesn’t plan to stop there! Payeng has plans to expand his forest onto other shorelines and sandbars near the river. I think we can all learn something from Payeng. As the famous poem from Lucy Larcom goes, he who plants a tree plants a hope, and joy, and peace, and youth, and love, and his work its own reward shall be.

Feel free to read the NRP story for yourself!


With the Easter holiday arriving in just a few days, many folks are getting their homes decorated with eggs, bunnies, candies, and more! But in some parts of the world, decorating trees is a common tradition. In Germany, and other European countries, there is a centuries old tradition of decorating branches, shrubs, and trees with painted eggs. The most famous Ostereierbaum, or the Easter Egg Tree,  was in the garden of Volker Kraft in Saalfeld, Thuringia (Germany). He and his wife began decorating an apple tree in their yard in 1965 with just 18 plastic eggs. As the years went by and the tree grew, they increased the eggs until in 2012 they had over 10,000 eggs, with the majority of them hand painted, hanging on their tree. This brought thousands of visitors to their home each year to see the amazing tree. They retired in 2015, and donated their collection in 2016. However, the biggest Ostereierbaum, accepted in the Guinness Book of World Records, consists of 82,404 painted eggs hanging from a pecan tree in Brazil. The second largest Easter Egg Tree was at the Rostock Zoo in Germany where they decorated a massive red oak tree with 76,596 eggs!

If you are looking to do something new and creative to do with your family this year, the tradition of decorating a tree outside is also something kids really enjoy and brings a lot of spring spirit, even as the cold weather continues. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, you can always bring a few branches indoors to place in a vase and decorate.

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Pictured: Volker Kraft decorating his apple tree in Saalfeld, Germany.