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Arbor Day History

Arbor Day had its beginnings in an area not always associated with trees or forests—the Great Plains. In 1872 on April 10, Morton Arboretum founder Joy Morton's father, living in Nebraska at the time, decided to set aside a day for planting and calling attention to trees, as the newly formed territory was a land almost entirely devoid of trees. That date became the first Arbor Day, when it is said that Nebraskans planted one million trees. The birthplace of Arbor Day was Nebraska City, where the Mortons lived in their home called Arbor Lodge. In 1885, Nebraska officially declared April 22, as Arbor Day. 

Today, all 50 states, as well as many countries around the world, recognize Arbor Day in some manner. The day of its observance varies, depending on the best time of year to plant trees in each locale. In Illinois, Arbor Day is the last Friday of April.

Through the Morton family, The Morton Arboretum has a direct link to the origin of Arbor Day. Joy Morton (1855-1934) established The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, in 1922, continuing the family legacy to plant trees.