History Lessons Under The Trees

Trees Help Keep History Alive

A unique tree-planting program would like to put a piece of history in your yard. The Famous & Historic Tree Program is an environmental education concept combining contemporary conservation with our nation’s heritage.

famous and historic trees

This poplar tree was planted by George Washington in 1785.

Young trees that are direct descendants of trees planted by – or associated with – George Washington, Betsy Ross, Martin Luther King, and 130 other famous people and places are available for planting, said Neil Sampson, vice president of American Forests, the nonprofit group sponsoring the program.

“We’ve identified trees all across America and around the world that are associated with significant people or events in history,” he said. “From the seeds of those one-of-a-kind trees, we grow small healthy trees and make them available for sale.”

Included in the group’s catalog are descendants of trees that witnessed the landing of Columbus, the American Revolution and the bloody battles of the Civil War. Others were nurtured by presidents, inventors, artists, heroes and other accomplished Americans.

George Washington, for instance, planted numerous trees at his home in Mount Vernon, Va. The program’s George Washington tulip poplar dates back to 1785 and is the largest of the living trees planted by the first president, said Sampson.

famous and historic trees

Other famous trees come from the lives of Abraham Lincoln, U.S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, John James Audubon, Edgar Allen Poe, Hellen Keller, Jesse Owens, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

One of the most popular selections involves trees from Walden Woods in Concord, Mass. Since this is where Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote from 1845 to 1847, it has been a sacred tract of land to many. Singer Don Henley and other celebrities have helped with the group’s Walden Woods Tree Project, aimed at stopping development on the land.

“One-third of the purchase price of each Famous & Historic Tree benefits the tree-planting and preservation efforts of American Forests,” Sampson said. “To date, more than 10,000 trees have been sold to more than 2,000 individuals, corporations and community organizations.”

Each of the one- to three-foot seedlings comes from the group’s nursery in Jacksonville, Fla. The trees sell for $35 and are guaranteed to grow. The tree also comes with a certificate of authenticity, fertilizer, planting instructions, a protective net and a stake for added support, Sampson said.

The Benefits Of Trees To Cities, Citizens

Forest restoration is a global issue, but planting a tree is a very local action. Through our Global ReLeaf program, American Forests works with communities of all sizes to get the right trees planted where they are needed. We have worked with Roanoke, Virgina; Houston, Texas; Washington, DC; and many other cities to increase their tree canopies. We have also been involved with smaller projects, like planting 331 trees at the Boston Nature Center to help mitigate the impact of rapid development nearby. View the rest of our urban projects here.The city of Baltimore, for example, estimates that its 2.8 million trees store 527 tons of carbon and remove 244 metric tons of ground-level ozone annually. It also estimates that its trees reduce energy costs citywide by $3.3 million a year.

Urban trees are a vital part of a functioning ecosystem. City trees can significantly reduce stormwater runoff, which pollutes local streams. Trees also absorb dangerous chemicals and other pollutants in the soil and can either store the pollutants or make them less harmful. Portland, Oregon, for example, is trying to increase its tree canopy from 26 percent to 33 percent by planting 83,000 trees to help manage stormwater. Other major cities — including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Phoenix — are also increasing their tree canopies.

Trees improve air quality by taking in carbon dioxide and other air pollution and releasing oxygen. They also intercept airborne particles and muffle urban noise. Their shade and evaporation create microclimates cooler than the surrounding sunny areas, cutting down on pollution and reducing the urban heat island effect.

Trees can also increase a home’s value and reduce energy use. Deciduous trees on the east, west and south sides of a house can significantly reduce summer cooling costs. Besides shading the structure itself, trees can shade a heat pump compressor to make it work more efficiently. In winter, evergreens that block the wind on the north side of a house can reduce heating costs.

Founded in 1875, the American Forests organization itself is part of America’s history. It is the country’s oldest nonprofit citizens conservation organization, he said. For more information about the program, call 1-800-320-TREE. Or visit www.AmericanForests.org

Earth Fact: Millions of tree-planting spaces are available around homes and businesses in towns and cities around the world. Planting those trees could save billions each year in energy costs. Those energy savings would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from energy production by millions of tons per year.

About Gary Chandler

Gary R. Chandler is a sustainability author and strategist. Follow him on Twitter @Gary_Chandler
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