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Apr 24

Arbor Day

Oaks
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Angel Oak
400 year old South Carolina Oak
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“He that plants trees loves others besides himself.” ~ Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

Arbor Day is celebrated worldwide on various dates. In the Northern hemisphere, many Arbor Day celebrations are held in the April/May timeframe and are celebrated by the planting of trees. The Crann Bethadh, the Celtic Tree of Life, symbolises the interconnectedness of life through the branching of trees. Hazel, rowan, elder, hawthorn, yew, ash, and of course the majestic oak were some of the most revered and sacred of the trees. Along with the Celts, Indo-Europeans worshiped the oak and connected it with a thunder or lightning god; "tree" and drus may also be cognate with "Druid," the ancient Celtic priest to whom the oak was sacred. Interestingly, there has even been a study that shows that oaks are more likely to be struck by lightning than any other tree of the same height! Today, the oak tree serves the national tree of the United States, England, Wales, Denmark, Germany, and many other countries.

Today, many countries celebrate arbor day, usually in the spring. The customary observance is to plant a tree. On the first Arbor Day in the United States, April 10, 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted.

There are approximately 600 extant species of oaks in the world.  North America contains the largest number of oak species, with approximately 90 occurring in the United States, while Mexico has 160 species of which 109 are endemic. The second greatest center of oak diversity is China, which contains approximately 100 species.  The live oaks are distinguished for being evergreen, but are not actually a distinct group and instead are dispersed across the genus.   

Oak wood great strength and hardness, resistance to insect and fungal attack, and attractive grain  made it much used for planking on high status Viking longships in the 9th and 10th centuries.   It is also prized for aging spirits and wines, including sherry, brandy, Irish and Scotch whiskies, and Bourbons.  

In addition to the United States, many other countries have also designated the oak as their national tree including BulgariaCyprus (GoldenOak), EnglandEstoniaFranceGermanyMoldovaJordanLatviaLithuaniaPolandRomaniaSerbia, and Wales.


By designer, Carol A.L. Martin, she notes: "Reminiscent of the mighty oak trees I grew up with in Southern Ontario. Believe it or not, there are oak trees in Northern Alberta where I now live. Only one variety will survive our winters - Bur Oak. This time of year, the leaves are predominantly yellow, with only the odd green one, which gave me this idea."

To learn more about famous oak trees in the world, click the notable Angel Oak a southern live oak located in Angel Oak Park on John's Island near Charleston, South Carolina. The Angel Oak is estimated to be in excess of 400–500 years old, stands 66.5 ft (20.3 m) tall, and measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference.