New trees usher in Arbor Day

Published: Saturday, January 10, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2004 at 10:47 p.m.

Cool, damp, sunless days of winter are the prime opportunity to invest in the future: Plant a tree.

Midwinter, when most trees are dormant and many are leafless, is the best time to plant or transplant trees.

This is why Florida's Arbor Day is celebrated the third week of January rather than the last Friday in April, which is the National Arbor Day.

The Four Seasons Garden Club got a jump on the season by sponsoring the planting of three Muskogee crape myrtles at the southwest corner of the historic gardens by the Thomas Center. These additions are a part of the overall renovation of the urban park. Muskogees are multiple-trunked and bloom in lavender.

Speaking to the gathering, Gainesville City Arborist Meg Niederhofer drew from various authors, poets and proverbs.

"Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets. To plant a tree, one need be neither god nor poet; one need have only a shovel," she read from Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac."

"People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us," wrote Iris Murdoch, an Irish author.

And two other quotes: "We are the trustees of the future. We are not here for ourselves alone. Who plants a tree loves others besides themselves." And from Kashmiri, "We have not inherited the world from our forefathers - we have borrowed it from our children."

Niederhofer continued, "To plant a tree provides kindness for many generations. This is the real spirit of Arbor Day. It is a holiday of action, where we affirm our intentions to create a better world, acknowledging our connection to the future, bringing to the foreground our awareness that every thing we do has consequences for others.

"How good we feel when we know the result of our labor brings blessings."

Those attending the ceremony were each asked to add a shovelful of soil to the planting soil, thereby affirming their connection to the past, and to the future.

A program on tree planting and landscaping followed.

  • Gainesville's official celebration will be Friday at Eastside Community Park, formerly called Cone Park, at 2700 E. University Ave. at noon.

    Dana Griffin, a mycologist and botanist who is a recognized local expert on native flora, will tell a tree story (which will no doubt be highly entertaining).

    Other speakers include former City Commissioner Pegeen Hanrahan, on land conservation; Alachua County Commission Chairman Mike Byerly, who was instrumental in having the county adopt a tree ordinance; Mayor Tom Bussing, who will present the Arbor Day proclamation; and Anita Spring, who will speak on behalf of the City Beautification Board, which is sponsoring the event.

    Co-chairs are Ryan Kozlovski and Judy Davis. There will be musical entertainment and refreshments supplied by the Hungry Ram from Eastside High School.

    This 36-acre "park in process" - which is being developed via a combination of private and public funding - has great promise, with wide open spaces that will be able to handle a variety of sports and recreational activities as well as a community center.

    But before those are all developed, trees are being planted to enhance it.

    The land is a pond-flatwoods, which is very wet in areas, so tree species are chosen to be thrive in this environment. The first landscaping will be done around the retention basin.

    Niederhofer said the species to be planted as part of the Arbor Day observance are `Florida Flame' maple, fringe tree, bald cypress, river birch, and Nissa sylvatica, which some people call sourgum and others call black tupelo.

    Each of these has characteristics that make them very desirable in this locale, as well as anyone's landscape. And they are native.

  • `Florida Flame' maples - A cultivar of Acer rubrum, is a rapid-growing, upright, rounded tree with red coloring in the early spring, when flowers and seed pods form, as well as bright reddish orange coloring in the fall.

    It requires a moist site, but with irrigation, can live in a variety of urban settings. The bark is thin and easily damaged by mowers or string trimmers.

  • Fringe tree - Also called grandfather's beard and several other descriptive terms, the flowers of fringe tree can cover the bare branches early in the spring with inch-long, tassle-like, light green, lemon-scented petals.

  • Bald cypress - A lofty, deciduous conifer that turns a beautiful rusty-brown in the fall, before the needles drop (some persist all winter). This also grows well in relatively dry sites, where it will not develop the above-ground "knees."

  • River birch - A medium-sized, rounded tree that displays a light reddish brown cinnamon bark that peels and flakes into several colors, creamy to orangish-brown.

  • Sourgum - Probably the most visible in the fall, when the leaves turn vivid red. This is considered one of the best five shade trees in the country, starting pyramidal and growing a round canopy with horizontal branches and glossy green leaves. The flowers are attractive to bees, the fruit to birds.

    There are a total 40 trees being planted for this ceremony - two for each year Gainesville has been a Tree City USA, a program sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

    To qualify for Tree City USA, a town or city must meet four standards: have a tree board or department; a tree care ordinance on the books; implement a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita; and have an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

    Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or

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