Arbor Day is April 25 - The best times to plant trees on Cape Cod are spring and fall.
Arbor Day is a national celebration to encourage planting and nurturing of trees. Initiated in 1872, it became nationally recognized in 1907. The date it is celebrated varies from state to state and depends on climate and planting seasons. This year in Massachusetts it is celebrated on April 25, the last Friday in April.
There are many great reasons to plant a tree. Besides being aesthetically pleasing, trees provide numerous benefits to humans and the environment, such as:
Native trees are well adapted to the environment, thrive under local conditions, maintain and can even improve soil fertility. Once established in their preferred habitat, native trees are hardy and require less water, fertilizer and pesticides than non-native trees. Less fertilizer and pesticides on the ground means less in our waters, thereby improving the quality of our groundwater, ponds and coastal waters.
On Cape Cod we are currently dealing with excess nutrients in our water systems. Trees may be able to help reduce the nutrient overload through attenuation, where nutrients are removed from a system. Trees attenuate nitrogen from the air through atmospheric deposition as well as from storm water run-off. Additionally, if a tree has a root system long enough to reach the groundwater and is planted to intersect groundwater flow, it can remove nitrogen from the groundwater. In order for nitrogen to be removed from the groundwater, the groundwater must pass through a zone where plant roots are active. More planted trees increases the likelihood of groundwater passing through an active root zone, which may help to reduce nutrients.
Planting a native tree also serves a vital function for birds and insects, which depend on native plants for survival. It’s a way to bring nature home and help your local ecosystem. As natural habitats are replaced by cities and suburban development, the use of native plants in landscaping can provide essential food, habitat and shelter for displaced wildlife. Insects, the base of the food web, also prefer native plants, thus providing essential food for birds. Ninety-six percent of terrestrial birds eat insects, and are in particular need of them during the months they lay eggs and rear their young (Tallamy, D. Native Plants Bring Wildlife to the Garden podcast, NPR.org).
To help you decide which tree to choose and where in your yard to plant it, the USDA Forest Service program i-Tree Design is a handy tool. It models tree plantings around structures to maximize energy saving benefits. Three trees placed strategically around a single home can reduce summer air conditioning costs by up to 50% (www.treepeople.org).
In preparation for this year’s celebration, APCC has created a list of trees that are native to Cape Cod. This list, found below, provides a guideline for trees that grow well on the Cape. The list is broken into two categories, understory (short trees) and canopy (tall trees). The setting where each tree grows best (sun versus shade) is also provided.
Most local nurseries sell native trees, however the following actively promote native plants:
Join APCC in celebrating Arbor Day by planting a native tree on April 25 and increase habitat, clean air and the beauty of your yard.