Celebrate in the Canopy on the 150th Arbor Day

By Sarah Howe, VINS Development Associate

This year, April 29th marks the 150-year anniversary of Arbor Day! Arbor Day is our national holiday specifically for celebrating trees, and all they do for our planet. And, believe it or not, trees do way more than you might think.

Besides the obvious – casting shade on a summer day and dropping their colorful leaves in the fall – trees draw CO2 out of the air and exchange it for oxygen for us to breathe, and they can also remove airborne particles. They truly improve the air we breathe and our respiratory health! Trees are constantly working to provide for us and our planet.

Trees also act as homes for countless critters. Animals like squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons and owls take up residence in hollows, and other birds make their nests among the branches. Not only that, but when the trees drop their leaves in the fall, even more animals make their homes in that leaf litter. Insects of all kinds use the leaves as shelter, and smaller animals like mice and moles live and hunt under leaf piles. Animals rely on healthy trees year-round, just as much, if not more than we do.

And that’s just the parts of trees that we can see – tree roots are imperative for keeping hillsides and riverbanks from eroding away due to heavy rains and snowmelt, which could lead to mudslides and flooding. They quite literally hold the earth together! Trees also use their roots to store nutrients over the winter when they lose their leaves, so they can survive and thrive until the springtime.

Trees, though often overlooked or ignored, truly are some of nature’s most impressive wonders. A white pine tree can grow up to 150 feet tall, and a maple or oak tree can grow over 120 feet – an entire forest of these arboreal giants is a sight to behold. At the very top of the forest is what’s called the canopy. The forest canopy is an ecosystem all its own, where tree-dwelling birds, mammals, and insects thrive high above the ground. Our Forest Canopy Walk offers visitors the unique experience of meandering through the canopy here at VINS, up to 100 feet above the forest floor, where they can see first-hand what it’s like to live so high up.

If you’d like to do something special this Arbor Day (or any day) to celebrate our leafy-limbed friends, but don’t know where to start, check out the list below for some ideas!

Fun Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day:

  1. Explore the VINS Forest Canopy Walk and see things from a bird’s-eye-view. Explore over 50 feet above the forest floor and see what it’s like living up in a tree! Head up even higher (up to 100 feet high) to our Treehouse, where you can check out the very tops of the trees, and even sway in the wind (safely) with them.
  2. Take a forest walk through your local park or along our trails here at VINS. Before you head out, pack some water, snacks, binoculars (you never know what you might see), and a field guide all about trees, and see how many species you can spot! store.vinsweb.org/product/field-guide-to-trees-eastern-region
  3. Plant a native tree! It could be one or many, right in your own backyard. Watch your tree grow over the years – you could even document its growth each Arbor Day as a fun tradition! Check out The Arbor Day Foundation’s website, www.arborday.org for more information on how to plant trees.
  4. Volunteer to plant trees in cleared riparian areas to rehabilitate stream habitats.
  5. When you can’t get outside, read about trees in a book like The Overstory by Richard Powers, an impactful novel about the connections trees create. store.vinsweb.org/product/the-overstory
  6. Do trees a favor and cut back on paper products like paper towels and napkins, and reach for reusable options instead. This will ease paper waste and save you money in the long run!
  7. Download Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. This certified B Corp uses income from search ads to plant real trees in over 9,000 locations around the world. They’ve already planted over 147 million trees globally! Check them out at www.ecosia.org

Show trees some love this Arbor Day and remember that trees are important year-round. Leave that leaf litter on your lawn in the fall! Make sure the firewood you buy for the winter is sourced responsibly! Leave those dead trees up on your property (if it’s safe to do so) so all kinds of birds and animals can use them! Remember that we rely on the forest, and vice versa – we are not separate from it. Help trees thrive by continuing the 150-year-long tradition of stewardship and education for years to come. The forest and its inhabitants will thank you.

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