Celebrate Arbor Day In Daley Plaza With Plant Advice and One-Of-A-Kind Art Installation Made From Thousands Of Live Plants

Chicagoans can witness a one-of-a-kind living billboard.
April 19, 2016

This April 29, Daley Plaza will go green during The Morton Arboretum’s second-annual Arbor Day Celebration and Pop-Up Plant Clinic.  From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., Chicagoans can learn how to be tree champions with free tree and plant advice from Arboretum experts, vote for their favorite tree, and witness a one-of-a-kind “living billboard”—a 30 X 10-foot-long visual of trees designed using more than 9,000 live plants. Additionally, leading tree care company Bartlett Tree Experts will hand out a limited number of saplings to visitors.

On display throughout the day, the living billboard is designed to both inspire and shock with two contrasting scenes, made possible by a lenticular design that allows a different image to be seen depending on a visitor's vantage point. When viewing the 30-foot-long billboard from one angle, visitors will encounter a barren, lifeless tree, and from another angle, a healthy tree with a full, green canopy. These markedly different images are meant to draw attention to the importance of trees in our cities, such as Chicago and its suburbs.

“In urban, developed settings like Chicago and our suburbs, the trees that live alongside us face different challenges than trees living in the wild—they need human intervention to help them thrive,” said Lydia Scott, director of the Chicago Region Tree Initiative at The Morton Arboretum. “Through this event and the unique billboard, we hope to inspire Chicagoans to champion trees not only on Arbor Day, but every day.”

Using live plants to create a lenticular effect has never been done before, said Bjorgvin Saevarsson, founder of Minneapolis-based Übergrün eco-advertisement agency, which crafted the living billboard from sedum, a hardy perennial succulent with thick, water-storing leaves, as well as other natural materials including bark and small stones. Beneath the surface of the billboard lies a layer of soil.

“Not only does this living billboard showcase how vital trees are to the health and future of our cities, but it’s cleaning the air while sharing this important message,” said Saevarsson, who oversaw a team of seven working about 150 hours to create this unique piece. The display can produce about 56 pounds of oxygen a month while also consuming carbon dioxide from the air around it.

Following the Arbor Day Celebration, the living billboard will be transported to the grounds of The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, where it will remain on display for a limited time.

The Arbor Day Celebration and Pop-Up Plant Clinic is part of the Arboretum’s yearly salute to Arbor Day, which includes the Arboretum’s Tree Tagging Campaign, reminding Chicagoans to “Be a Tree Champion” with brightly-colored tags hung on nearly 3,000 Chicago trees from April 22-May 9. In addition, Arbor Day events take place at the Arboretum’s Lisle home all April long, culminating in a weekend full of “tree-mendous” events for the whole family, April 29-31. 

The Arboretum thanks 2016 Arbor Day sponsor Bank of America for its support.

Why Trees Matter
In an urban forest, defined as trees that live alongside people in larger cities and suburbs, trees can’t survive without human intervention. Meanwhile, people–quite literally–cannot live without trees.  So, the Arboretum’s arborists, horticulturists, researchers and teams of volunteers work diligently to protect and conserve the trees that make our cities so beautiful, dealing daily with issues like the emerald ash borer and fungal diseases that threaten to decimate much of the area’s treescape. The Morton Arboretum estimates that one in five Chicago street trees is an ash tree—most of which will eventually need to be removed, which will not only change the look of parkways, yards and communities, but will require thousands of trees be replaced.

Arbor Day and The Morton Arboretum
With its mission to plant and save trees, The Morton Arboretum has a unique connection to Arbor Day. To encourage the planting of trees, the first Arbor Day was organized in tree-barren Nebraska in 1872 by Secretary of Agriculture J. Sterling Morton, father of Joy Morton who later founded the Arboretum. The Morton family motto was “Plant Trees,” which inspired Joy Morton, president of the Morton Salt Company in Chicago, to carry on that legacy at his estate in west suburban Lisle, where he established an arboretum, or outdoor museum of trees, in 1922. Today, all 50 states and many countries around the world recognize Arbor Day in honor of trees and their value to us. Arbor Day in Illinois is the last Friday in April, but other states observe Arbor Day on different dates according to their best tree-planting times.