Florida’s Arbor Day: Third Friday in January.

The first Arbor Day was actually declared back in 1865, when we had a lot more trees.  J. Sterling Morton lived in Nebraska when he founded the Arbor Day Foundation. His son founded the Morton salt company in Chicago, and then the Morton Arboretum which is a vibrant, beautiful place and home to a superlative outdoor children's learning area. Don't miss it if you're ever out there.

The Mortons have done a lot to help trees, and now it's our turn. Taking time out to celebrate the planting of trees is more important than ever. The Arbor Day Foundation sponsors many activities and programs including Tree City USA certifications. Florida has 153 Tree Cities. Orlando has been a Tree City the longest—for 33 years.  See www.arborday.org/states/?state=FL for other information and Arbor Day opportunities in Florida.

Most of the country celebrates Arbor Day in April, but here in Florida, it’s much better to plant a tree now. So both Florida and Louisiana celebrate Arbor Day the third Friday in January. Deciduous trees are dormant and others are less active, so they take to the shock of transplanting better. One thing to keep in mind is that January is right in the middle of our 7-month dry season. Extra irrigation over and above the rain and general landscape irrigation will be needed. For guidelines on planting and suggested irrigation schedules, see Ginny’s article: Trees and Shrubs: the "Bones" of Your Landscape.

Regionally Appropriate Choices for Your Arbor Day Trees…

We decided to poll some native nurseries in various parts of Florida for some guidelines and ideas of what trees would be the most appropriate and what they have in stock right now... We arbitrarily picked nurseries in different parts of the state, but there are many excellent native nurseries and you can find one near you on the Association of Florida’s Native Nurseries website www.afnn.org/gardening-public.

Starting in Tallahassee:

Long leaf pines, a good choice for
most of Florida

Donna Legare at Native Nurseries of Tallahassee says, "It is hard to pick 5 trees - we carry so many different species for different types of soils and that will grow to different heights. But here are our special 5:
1. Longleaf pine - (Pinus palustris) for sun to 125'
2. Live oak - (Quercus virginiana) for sun to 80'
3. Swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii) for sun to light shade,
     100' and up
4. American beech (Fagus grandifolia) for light shade to shade,
     100' and up

5. Chalk maple (Acer saccharum subsp. leucoderme) for sun to 
     light shade to 30'

Donna says, “Encourage planters to talk with their local nursery staff to find the right tree for their yard. They should dig around and be able to describe the soil - is it hard red clay or sandy or black and loamy—we have all three types in the Panhandle. They should know if there is a drainage problem—we have trees that can take wet spots. They should also be able to describe how much sun their yard gets - do they live in a woods or out in an open field or are there large canopy trees around. They should also know where overhead wires are in their yard. Then we can help pick the right sized tree and the right species for them. We can describe the special features of each - gorgeous fall color, flowers for hummingbirds, fruit or nuts for birds, fast or slow growing, showy flowers, colonial and so on.”

Oooh... the red fall colors of red maple.
Near Jacksonville:
James Loper at Reflections of Nature Nursery

1. Weeping Yaupon Holly- (Ilex vomitoria)
2. Flatwoods Plum- (Prunus umbellata)
3. Sand Live Oak- (Quercus geminata)
4. Red Maple- (Acer rubrum)http://www.florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3925
5. Sycamore- (Platanus occidentalis)

James advises us to learn how to plant a tree correctly and he always plants a tree so the root flare is higher than the soil line and uses a lot of water at the time of planting to remove any air bubbles from around the roots. The first three trees on his list are smaller trees that are appropriate for people with less room. Lastly he advises look up--don't plant these new trees under a power line or over your septic tank, either.

Simpson's stopper in bloom
     Central Florida:
     Sharon and Brent Dolan at Maplestreet Natives

     1. Southern Red Cedar - (Juniperous virginiana) 
     2. Slash Pine - (Pinus elliottii)
     3. Hercules club - (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis))
     4. Simpson's stopper - (Myrcianthes fragrans)

Sharon notes that the  Simpson's stopper is very cold hardy, so is looking good despite the recent cold temps. She likes its fragrant flowers, red berries and general willingness to grow well in sun, shade, dry or wet conditions. Cedars are great for screening; their dense upright branches give good cover and nest sites for birds, and the female tree has berries loved, of course, by cedar waxwings. The Hercules club is host for Giant swallowtail butterflies, and its leaves emit a light citrus-y scent. Another plus for this plant is its salt tolerance.
South Florida
Contrasting sides of Satinleaf leaves
Michael Catron - Southern Native Nursery
Loxahatchee - 561.798.1172

1. Live and Laurel Oaks - (Quercus virginiana and
       Q. laurifolia)
2. Satinleaf - (Chrysophyllum oliviforme)
3. Dahoon holly - (Ilex cassine
4. Gumbo limbo - (Bursera simarubra)
5. Jamaican caper - (Capparis cynophllophora)

Michael notes that he likes the oaks because they withstand hurricanes and are great for wildlife. However, they are not for small spaces. Satinleaf glistens beautifully in the wind when the leaves vibrate, alternately revealing  shiny green tops and coppery-brown undersides. Gumbo limbo adds interest with its red bark, and varied trunk forms. For the small yard, Dahoon hollies and Jamaican capers (native despite the name) are wonderful, with flowers and berries respectively. Michael has containerized, healthy trees in sizes ranging from 8 to 25 gallons. He is open six days a week.

Arbor Day Foundation

If you join you can opt for 10 free trees with your membership, but if you do this please choose native species. On the other hand, since these trees are unlikely to be locally grown in Florida, you’d probably have better luck with trees from your local native nursery. May we humbly suggest the other option of having the foundation plant 10 trees in your honor in one of our nation’s forests, instead?

10 live oaks is an Arbor Day option that's
appropriate for all of Florida, except the Keys.
For northern and central Florida, including the panhandle, they offer these choices: 10 live oaks, 10 redbuds, 10 bald cypress, 10 river birches and the 10 eastern redcedars are all good choices. The 5 crape myrtles are also offered, but these are not native, over-planted, and are routinely mis-pruned. The 10 flowering trees—4 white dogwoods, 3 American redbuds, and 3 goldenraintrees is a questionable choice. They don’t specify which goldenraintree, but one, Koelreuteria elegans.ssp formosana, is on the number II invasive list for central and south Florida. www.fleppc.org/list/List-WW-F09-final.pdf

For south Florida zip codes, the choices are limited to 10 live oaks, 10 bald cypress or 5 crape myrtles.

Happy Florida Arbor Day!

Let us know which trees you have planted.

Ginny Stibolt
sue dingwell


Anonymous said…
Wow, great information! Thanks. It's interesting how often live oaks are recommended. I'll have to consider planting one.

V. Avery
Anonymous said…
Happy Arbor Day to our fellow cities and towns in Clay County and across the state.

The City of Green Cove Springs located along the banks of the historic St. Johns River will celebrate Arbor Day with a ceremony at 3PM in our Vera Francis Hall community park at 3PM today.

The City received an Urban Forestry Grant and planted 15 Live Oak, 15 Southern Magnolia, 15 Maple and 23 Sycamore trees in this community park located along the banks of Governors Creek in the northwest part of the City.

Green Cove Springs is 20 year member of the Tree City USA program and has selected the Live Oak tree as our tree of preference. We are fortunate to have several of these grand and large trees located throughout our community.

Thank you for your articles they are most informative and again we wish everyone a Happy Arbor Day all across the great state of Florida.

L. Bentley
Planning and Zoning Director
City of Green Cove Springs
Anonymous said…
Used to live in Green Cove Springs/Lake Asbury sounds like the area has some good stewards.

I'm plants anise in Milton, FL
Ginny Stibolt said…
@L.Bentley, thanks for sharing Green Cove Spring's Arbor Day activities and its Tree City USA status.

I would love to do a follow-up with more details as a separate post. I think your story of how even a small city can benefit will encourage others to follow suit.

Contact me at www.transplantedgardener.com

John R said…
We (my wife and I) have been planting trees every month since moving out to this wonderful farm. Right now we are prepping a native Mulberry, Elderberry, a Loquat, and even some Porter weed as a ground cover.

Last month we planted a Tamerind and a Pond Apple.
John R said…
I forgot to mention our Southern Red Cedar/Christmas Tree. We got this from the Florida Native Plant Nursery in Sarasota and will be planting it too, in a place of honor on our farm.

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