Celebrate Florida Arbor Day

By Jessica Pardo, Communications Specialist, SWS

Tomorrow, January 20th, the Sunshine State celebrates Arbor Day – a day set aside for people to plant and care for trees, as they are reminded of the importance of Florida’s forests.

Arbor Day, which is nationally celebrated on the last Friday in April, has been (unofficially) celebrated since 1872. It began when J. Sterling Morton, an avid agriculturist who had recently relocated his family to Nebraska, noticed the need for trees. In an effort to provide lumber, shade, and windbreaks for the soil, he proposed a day dedicated to the replanting and preservation of trees. Click here for the full history of Arbor Day.

Today, Arbor day is celebrated at the state level on many different days, depending on the optimal planting time for that particular region.

Harvested lumber is the largest agricultural commodity in Florida, according to Tim Martin, professor and co-interim director of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Trees have a significant economic impact on our state, as it is estimated that just one acre of Florida forest provides more than $5,000 of service to Florida residents. In this article, Martin mentions clean water and air, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, carbon sequestration, and biodiversity as just a few benefits of forests.

The foundation for a healthy tree starts with healthy soil. If you plan on planting a tree in honor of Florida Arbor Day, here are some handy tips from IFAS Extension to help you prepare your soil for planting.

Illustration of proper tree planting by UF/IFAS.

  1. Dig the hole 1.5 times the width of the root ball.
  2. Fill back in the soil around the root ball but never place any soil over it.
  3. Use slow-release (or controlled-release) fertilizer on top of the root ball and backfill soil.
  4. Apply a 3-inch-thick layer of mulch around the plant to discourage weeds.

Trying to decide what type of tree to plant? Here is a Florida-Friendly Plant List that breaks down the optimal region, soil pH, and soil moisture for various Florida-friendly trees. It also lists the growth height/spread, optimum light range, and the types of wildlife that it will attract, to help you make an informed decision.

Soils are a limited natural resource that have taken thousands of years to form. The preservation of our soils are essential to producing timber, food, and fiber, along with maintaining healthy ecosystems and habitats. Tomorrow, celebrate Florida forests, celebrate Florida soils, and plant a Florida-friendly tree!

Happy Florida Arbor Day, folks!