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Happy Arbor Week: Time to Celebrate Trees

It’s been more than 135 years since J. Sterling Morton originated Arbor Day. The Nebraskan was Secretary of Agriculture during the Grover Cleveland administration, and he had a fascination with trees. His simple idea was to set aside a special day for planting trees – and Arbor Day was born.

In Oregon, one of the most forested landscapes in the world, we commemorate a full Arbor Week, which this year runs April 7-14. It's a great opportunity for everyone to foster the well-being of the trees surrounding them. And what could be more natural during Arbor Week than to learn more about trees? You can visit OFRI’s website, where there is an interactive section on identifying trees around your yard and in your neighborhood. During Arbor Week, consider volunteering with a local tree-planting organization such as Friends of Trees. You'll meet new people and make a difference in your community.

Oregon’s Arbor Week is also a great time to honor trees and appreciate their many benefits – benefits that include clean air, water and wildlife habitat, plus higher property values. It’s always a great time to plant a tree. On April 20, OFRI will be giving away 1,000 tree seedlings at The Oregon Garden Earth Day celebration. Come plant a tree with us!

Tree planting using “right tree, right place” principles

When choosing where to plant your new tree, the first consideration is what the tree needs, and if the area can provide it. Here are five “tree needs” to keep in mind:

  1. Each tree species has different moisture needs and can tolerate wet or dry conditions to different degrees; know your tree’s watering requirements so you don’t expose them to too much or too little water. 
  2. Know the specifics of your tree’s height and crown size at maturity, so you can properly situate it in the landscape. 
  3. Once you’ve purchased your tree and are ready to plant, dig a hole wider than seems necessary, so the roots can spread without crowding. Remove any grass within a 3-foot circular area to minimize competition for resources. 
  4. Plant the tree at the same depth it stood in the pot or ground, and partially fill the hole, firming the soil around the lower roots. Do not add soil amendments. 
  5. Give your new tree plenty of water. Water it generously every week or 10 days during its first year.

Arbor Day was first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872. On that day, more than 1 million trees were planted. Today, all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day, although the dates may vary in keeping with the local climate. At the federal level, in 1970 President Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day. In Oregon, during this year’s Arbor Week, take some time to plan an outing with friends or to participate in a fun family activity to celebrate trees.

Happy Arbor Week!

Julie Woodward, Tree Planter
OFRI Forest Education Program Manager

Tree planting, AGAIN!

Up early and ready to go on a recent winter morning, my husband Rex and my 21-year-old son Nick headed to our 89-acre family forestland plot near Mist in Oregon’s northern Coast Range. Today’s mission: plant Douglas-fir seedlings on six acres where we burned slash piles last fall, and replace seedlings that didn’t make it through the summer.

Replanting trees after harvest is Oregon law, and making sure they are “free to grow” in five years is another requirement of the Oregon Forest Practices Act – but we’d do it anyway, because it’s in our interest to do so.

Upon arrival, the weather was true to the nearby town’s name, because the skies were certainly misty. But compared to last year when we planted most of the six acres in the cold and rain, the lightly moist sky was an improvement, and we all appreciated those better conditions. I can honestly say I have newfound appreciation for the professionals who do this work day in and day out, planting 40-million-some trees every year in our state in all kinds of conditions.

After giving Nick a quick tree-planting lesson, we were on the job. Due to the high survival rate from last year’s planting, we mainly planted seedlings around and in last year’s burned slash piles. Working diligently and only stopping for a quick lunch, we wrapped up planting by mid-afternoon and were happy to leave for home – except for my husband. Rex wanted to linger, because he’s a true forester.

For now, my tree-planting days are over. Yay! But there’s still more work to do. We’ll spend chunks of time managing brush, weeds and alder seedlings to allow the Douglas-fir to reach “free to grow” condition, as required under law. But in six years, the trees will tower over the underbrush, and then we can sit back and watch them grow. And that’s very gratifying, because we know we did it right.

Kathy Storm
Manager of Business Operations

Squishy hiking

Hiking isn’t just for the sunny days of summer. As an Oregon parent enduring a long, wet winter with two high-energy kids, hitting the trails simply can’t wait for the next 60-degree day. Fortunately, around the Portland metro area, there is no shortage of great urban and semi-urban forest adventures awaiting us.

Although getting the kids into their rain gear and out of the house can sometimes resemble a failing hostage negotiation, the trepidation usually ends once we stomp in our first mud hole.

Tryon Creek is a favorite of ours. It’s a moderate walk to the creek from the visitor’s center. It’s got decent water in the winter, so we head down there for some leaf boat races.

Reed Canyon is a hidden Portland gem. I lived in my home for seven years before I learned of this sanctuary not more than two miles from my front door. It’s an easy trail, about a mile and a half, surrounding a reservoir and filled with waterfowl. They’ve got a small population of returning salmon and even a resident otter.

The Audubon Society is also a frequent destination. We check out the birds in the hospital, and say hello to residents Hazel (a northern spotted owl) and Ruby (a turkey vulture) on the way to hiking the loop. We’ve poked more slugs and rotten logs along those trails than anywhere else in Oregon.

The benefit of frequenting urban forests like these is that my kids and I begin to appreciate what distinct seasons have to offer the same plot of forestland. Mushrooms in one season give way to wildflowers in the next. A spawning salmon may seem more majestic than a banana slug, but try telling that to a 6-year-old with a stick.

Urban forests are all around us – get those little ones out there. These natural treasures are muddy, they’re cold, they’re wet, and they’re open year ‘round. What’s not to love?


Jordan Benner
Public Outreach Program Manager and Oregon parent.

Forests elsewhere

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in Southeast Asia. Along with friends, we spent two weeks traveling in the backcountry of Laos; we found it interesting to see the rivers, mountains and forests of that country. Laos is landlocked, and one border is arrayed along the Mekong River, which during the winter months looks about the size of the Columbia. We were told its water volume swells by several times during the rainy season.

The Mekong is everything to the people who live on its banks – not the least factor of which is that it contributes to the vast irrigated farmland where 80 percent of Laotians live. In the lowlands you also see mile after mile of brush fields, where tropical forests once were and where rice and other crops will not grow. Remnants of these tropical forests are protected in preserves, although the temptation to remove valuable trees must be great, because our guide pointed out places where some had been stolen.

Much of the land is in small private ownership of an acre or two. Quite often you see small plantations of teak trees planted neatly in straight rows, managed for wood production. Our guide said that in 25 to 30 years these trees can be harvested – that they represent what one generation of landowner could do to help the next, which is a concept familiar to many Oregon forest landowning families. Some logs may be sold, but just as likely, he said, they will be used to build a home, because this durable wood is favored for construction in this tropical climate.

But the Mekong and its tropical lowlands aren’t the only features of Laos. The uplands and higher mountains have distinct cultures and forests. As we traveled to a high plateau area, we abruptly began to see pine trees intermingled in areas growing bananas and pineapples. Eventually, as we climbed higher the landscape opened up, and it was quite different from the lowlands. It was noticeably cooler, although people still farm rice there. We stayed at a small lodge located in a pure pine forest, and we felt at home walking trails through the pine-needle duff. The old lodge buildings were built from knotty pine, with foundations of stone. Fireplaces burned familiar-smelling wood. Some of the forest shrubs had red foliage. They turned out to be poinsettia, which, while probably not native, grow into very large shrubs, contrasting the green forest with bright red understory.

For my wife and me, Laos will no longer just be a spot on the map now that we’ve visited the country and seen its forests. Lush and tropical along the river – but not very far away, drier with open pine forests. We didn’t know you could see it all within one day, and it was quite an eye-opener.

Dave Kvamme
Director of Communications


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