Look out any window, and you'll probably see a tree or two - each and every one of them planted by someone, since Denver is a high plains desert region and by definition has no native trees.

The Nebraska Territory was also treeless when pioneer J. Sterling Morton and his bride, Caroline, arrived there in 1854 from Detroit and staked a claim in Nebraska City. He became the editor of the town's newspaper and built a 52-room mansion based on the design of the White House. The nature-loving couple missed having trees, so they planted many rare varieties, including heirloom apple, throughout the estate.

Morton, who was also an agriculturist, wrote numerous articles promoting the planting of trees by both individuals and community groups, not only for shade but also as a windbreak to keep soil in place and to provide building materials. He became prominent in Nebraska for his political, journalistic and agricultural interests, and was eventually appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Cleveland. He is best known for being the founder of Arbor Day, though, which was first recognized April 10, 1872, when an estimated 1 million trees were planted.

In Colorado, we celebrate Arbor Day on the last Friday in April. Why do trees deserve their own holiday?

  • Trees bring wildlife to urban areas by providing housing for birds and other wildlife.
  • In our communities, trees create sound barriers to city noises, keep us cool by deflecting sunlight and serve as historic landmarks in our neighborhoods.
  • They help our environment by improving the air quality and providing oxygen through photosynthesis. Their roots prevent soil erosion while leaves can be used as compost.
  • Not only are trees used as lumber for construction and countless other items. They also provide fruit, nuts, maple syrup, clothing and even aspirin, which is made from bark extract.

The real reason that we love trees, though, is that they are beautiful, make soothing rustling noises, give us shade for picnics and are available for swings, birdhouses and holiday lights.

The Colorado Tree Coalition is a nonprofit, volunteer organization whose mission is “leading statewide efforts to preserve, renew, and enhance community forests.” They do this through various activities such as the Champion Tree Program, a registry of the state's largest trees and their locations. Currently, they are offering a $500.00 reward for finding the largest Blue Spruce (our state tree) in order to oust the current champion, which is unfortunately located in Utah. Other programs include awards, scholarships and grants, community tree planting events, assessment guidelines for precarious trees, tours of notable trees and even tree obituaries.

The CSU Extension offers advice for tree-lovers, including a large selection of articles about trees and shrubs such as Think Before You Plant and The Intimate Patio Tree. You can also find recommendations for Xeriscape: Trees and Shrubs, and the Front Range Tree Recommendation List.

Plant talk Colorado, another service of the CSU Extension, has both audio and written scripts for just about any horticultural situation ranging from basics like Buying Trees & Shrubs and The Science of Planting Trees to the more specialized Small Trees & Utility Lines and Stump Removal.


New Treehouses of the World (2009) by Peter Nelson

Trees and Shrubs of Colorado (2006) by Jack L. Carter

Seeing Colorado's Forests for the Trees (2003) by John Fielder

The Tree Doctor - Cat in the Hat Series (2013) by Trish Rabe

The Tree Doctor: A Guide to Tree Care and Maintenance (2003) by Dan Prendergast

Written by Lisa on April 24, 2013


Leigh Ann on April 25, 2013


Thank you for an excellent blog, Lisa--indeed, trees add so much to our lives. Some other cool facts: Trees are the longest-living organisms on earth; they beautify and protect our environment by providing color, shelter, and shade; trees renew our air supply by soaking up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen and, properly planted around buildings, trees can reduce air conditioning demands by up to 30%; the Japanese regard the gingko tree as the bearer of hope. Truly amazing--trees are so lovely and wonderful--can't imagine a world without them! Thank goodness for Mr. J. Sterling Morton, who planted all those trees & gave us Arbor Day.

Becker on April 25, 2013


Thanks for all the great information! Keep a lookout for the Fresh City Life My Branch schedule for August, when we'll be offering Right Tree, Right Place: Choosing Trees for Your Landscape here at Schlessman, with tips on tree choice, planting, and bargains!


So you'll be talking trees at your branch? I was at the groundcover one and it was very helpful.

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