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(For the week of February 9, 2009)
Mississippi Arbor Day
by James L. Cummins

While National Arbor Day is held on the last Friday in April, Mississippi, similar to several other states, observes the holiday at a time best suited to its growing season. Our state adopted the second Friday in February as the day on which Mississippi would annually observe Arbor Day.

Arbor Day was first observed in Nebraska in 1872 due to the thoughtful vision of Julius Sterling Morton, who was a concerned resident, journalist and politician. He recognized that the planting of more trees would provide great benefit to the quality of life. He thought that there should be a special day for the planting, care and appreciation of trees.

Currently, Arbor Day is actively celebrated in all 50 states. However, due to the variations in climates across the United States, each state celebrates Arbor Day on its own special date.

And while our nation depends so heavily on trees to produce the thousands of wood products we need every day, we are also depending on these same trees to provide many other services that benefit society, for most of which forest landowners never receive compensation. These free services to society include producing oxygen, sequestering carbon dioxide, filtering air and water, providing fish and wildlife habitat, including that for threatened and endangered species, improving the aesthetic beauty of the natural landscape and providing opportunities for recreation and solitude. Trees also produce fruits, gums, mulches, nuts, oils and syrups. Trees cut noise pollution by acting as barriers to sound and also beautify our yards as well as the endless miles of highways just to name a few.

We encourage you to plant any of the 150 native species of trees that grow here in Mississippi. Planting the right tree in the right location will ensure a healthy future for generations to come. Some of the trees to choose from are oak, hickory, cypress, ash, holly, plum, dogwood, elm, maple pine and best of all, the State Tree which produces our State Flower, the Southern magnolia.

To be reasonably sure that the tree of your choice will grow well in your locality, ask your local nursery person, your service forester or your county agent. You can also go to, which is Wildlife Mississippi's own tree planting site, and find information on tree selection and planting.

This Arbor Day please plant a tree and enhance the natural beauty of Mississippi.

For more information on National Arbor Day, please visit

James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a non-profit, conservation organization founded to conserve, restore and enhance fish, wildlife and plant resources throughout Mississippi.