Celebrating Arbor Day
Celebrating Arbor Day
The first American Arbor day was held on April 10, 1872, when Julius Sterling Morton organized the planting of one million trees throughout the state of Nebraska. His son Joy Morton would later found the Morton Arboretum, converting his original 400-acre estate into a living tree museum. Many years later, the Morton Arboretum developed Arbnet, the interactive community of arboreta that supports the collection and preservation of woody plants worldwide, and includes Madison Square Park Conservancy’s Level 2 Arboretum.
As we celebrate trees this Arbor Day, we reflect back on the history as well as the future of urban plantings. Urban trees in NYC are incredibly important, offering a myriad of environmental benefits. They help New York adapt to climate change by cooling the city, absorbing stormwater, and lowering emissions by storing carbon. Trees provide food and habitat to myriad animal species, including insects, birds, snakes, amphibians, and invertebrates. And they offer respite, solace, and beauty when we humans need it most.
But these benefits do not reach everyone equitably. The NYC urban forest is a unique, complex system that includes more than 7 million trees across public and private property. Yet many of the most heat-vulnerable neighborhoods, which tend to be low-income communities and communities of color, have fewer trees and access to shade. There is also no dedicated long-term funding or committed plan for protecting and managing NYC’s trees.
Tree stewardship and preservation is such an important step in ensuring the longevity of our most important green infrastructure. Without a proper plan for care and the funding to support it, the mortality rate of new trees in NYCs urban forest will continue to hold at 27% over ten years, never allowing for real establishment of a robust urban overstory. That’s why Madison Square Park Conservancy is proud to be a member of the Forest For All NYC Coalition, which supports 30% tree canopy cover in NYC by 2035 to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to the benefits of mature trees. This Arbor Day—and every day—we are committing ourselves to supporting the trees that support us.
(Photo by Andy Romer)