Florida Arbor Day arrived at Macclenny Elementary the afternoon of January 19 when students lent many a helping hand to plant four river birch trees in the school’s backyard while learning about them from county forester Andy Lamborn of the Florida Forest Service.
Two hundred and sixty nine students in all were briefed about the history of Arbor Day and trees themselves — how they clean the air, soak up water and nutrients from the soil and contribute to many, many things we use everyday, including toothbrushes and paper products.
Groups of four classes at a time gathered outside their classrooms around a pre-dug hole and potted river birch tree, which Mr. Lamborn said was chosen over other varieties because of its heartiness.
“It can handle just about anything,” he said.
The soil at Macclenny Elementary is rich with clay, likely used as fill material during the school’s construction, but the river birch can still thrive there. It’s also cold tolerant.
National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, while Florida Arbor Day, the first arbor day observance in the nation along with Louisiana’s, is marked on the third Friday of January. Both holidays are often marked by planting trees.
January is an ideal time of year for planting trees in Florida because they are dormant, or not growing, and lose less water through evaporation, both of which gives them a greater ability to withstand the stress of transplanting.
The final group of Macclenny Elementary students to help plant a river birch tree were the third grade classes of Beverly Rentz, Ms. Haller, Ms. Dorman and Ms. Rambo.
After hearing about Florida Arbor Day and the important roles trees play in the environment and our lives, Mr. Lamborn removed the river birch, which was purchased at Hagan Ace Hardware in Macclenny, from its pot and placed it into the freshly dug hole.
He explained how one should avoid packing down the soil when burying the roots of the tree as fellow ranger Ryan Mason scooped dirt into the hole with a shovel.
Then it was time to take volunteers.
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