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Everyone Should Hug a Tree for History, Health, and Happiness

 
Trees in a rural setting

 

Today is Arbor Day, and we’re celebrating the beauty and symbolism trees lend to our world. Take a look at this tree-themed trivia from across our region. We hope the facts will inspire you to hug a tree or, especially, plant one in honor of all that trees do for us and our environment.


Appalachian Mountains 

  • The temperate forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains are home to more tree species than anywhere else in North America. These include hickory, poplar, walnut, sycamore, hemlocks, spruces, firs, and many more. There are thought to be 140 species of trees in the span of the entire Appalachian range. 
  • Trees provide habitats to 80% of terrestrial life, and healthy forests are often where biodiversity is the highest for any ecosystem. The Appalachian Mountains have one of the highest rates of biodiversity among any of the planet’s temperate regions. This includes an estimated 255 species of birds, 78 species of mammals, 58 species of reptiles, and 76 species of amphibians. 
  • According to a Duke University study, half of the tree and shrub species in the southern Appalachians are most closely related to similar varieties in eastern Asia. Fossil and DNA evidence suggests that these tree relatives once shared a forest that sprawled across a supercontinent in the Northern Hemisphere. When these landmasses separated nearly 65 million years ago, the species began evolving distinctively yet remained genetically connected. 

White Pine TreeNorth Carolina 

  • Eight species of pine grow in North Carolina. The state tree is “pine,” which, although unspecific, includes each species. 
  • North Carolina’s state nickname, “Tar Heel,” comes from the abundance of pine “tar,” or more accurately, sap, that covers the forest floor and sticks to bare feet. Much Civil War lore surrounds the nickname, but the origins of the phrase back to the state's earliest days when it was a leading producer of turpentine, which was distilled from pine tar, for the naval industry. "Tar heel" or "rosin heel" was a commonly used, disparaging term that referred to laborers in that industry who often worked barefoot. 

South Carolina 

  • The sabal palm is South Carolina’s state tree and the source of the nickname, The Palmetto State. It is a symbol of pride and represents the first decisive Colonial victory against the British Royal Navy of the American Revolution. The patriots' fort made of sabal palm planks deflected British cannon fire during the battle that occurred just off the South Carolina coast on Sullivan’s Island. A palmetto design was incorporated into the state flag in 1861. 
  • Although the palmetto is the state symbol, the loblolly pine is the most prevalent tree in South Carolina. 
  • Approximately 68% of South Carolina’s land is forested. 

Tennessee 

  • Tennessee’s official state tree is the tulip poplar because it grows across the state’s full width. It remains important as a symbol because it was commonly used by pioneers in their construction of homes, barns, and farm buildings. 
  • Tennessee also has a state evergreen tree, which is the Eastern red cedar. Like the tulip poplar, this tree grows throughout the state and was commonly used by pioneers. It also grew prominently on land that became the site of the State Capitol and was a sacred symbol of the native Cherokee. 

Dogwood TreeVirginia 

  • Virginia is one of only two states in the nation to have the same state tree and state flower: the flowering dogwood. The dogwood grows across the commonwealth from the mountains to the ocean. 
  • Forests cover an estimated 62% of the state, making forestry Virginia’s single most important purpose for land use. 

One last general trivia tidbit to consider is that trees clean the air by removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. In addition to purifying our air, they also filter groundwater and are key ingredients in 25% of all medicines. Not only are trees symbols of our history and culture, but they also provide shelter to humans and animals, clean our air and water, and maintain a delicate balance in the environment all living organisms share. Let’s give it up for trees and all that they do for our planet on Arbor Day. Now, go get your hands dirty in celebration and plant a tree!


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