Carrington Research Extension Center


| Share

Tracing the Roots of Arbor Day


Arbor Day is a long-standing tradition of celebrating trees across the country, started in 1872 in Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton.   Tree enthusiasts in Dakota Territory hopped on board in 1882 to plant, distributing seeds and seedlings to schoolchildren across the open prairie.  Today, nearly 150 years later, every state celebrates its own officially proclaimed Arbor Day.  Nationally we celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April.  For North Dakota, the official State Arbor Day is the first Friday in May.

For Tree City USA towns, an annual Arbor Day is required to maintain certification.  North Dakota is home to 53 Tree Cities USA, ranging in size from the state’s largest city - Fargo, population 120,000 - to the smallest Tree City USA currently on record – Sibley, population 20.

Arbor Day gets students outside to discover things like this spruce tree with a robin’s nest full of eggs – McVille, 2017.

Community Arbor Day events are as varied as the number of communities in which they are celebrated and are scheduled anytime that is convenient, but most celebrations include planting one or more trees.  Many towns celebrate at the local school, and enthusiastic students enjoy getting their hands dirty to help plant a tree.

In Carrington, 1st graders assist with planting a tree at the city park.  The photo shows seniors posing in front of the tree they planted 12 years earlier!

North Dakota’s state Arbor Day has been hosted in communities across the state in conjunction with reasons to celebrate:  President George H. Bush presented and dedicated an American elm tree located near the Capitol steps in commemoration of the state’s Centennial in 1989.  Events in 2003 and 2004 celebrated the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition.  Northwood (2008) and Dickinson (2010) featured tree-planting recovery efforts following catastrophic tornadoes in those communities.  Trees were planted at the International Peace Garden (2012) in honor of the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts.  Cando (2014) and Watford City (2017) hosted the State Arbor Day to celebrate 25th Anniversaries as a Tree City USA.

This year, go out on a limb – grab a shovel and celebrate the beauty and benefits of trees in your community.


Gerri Makay

Community Forestry Program Manager – ND Forest Service


Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.