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Ely 4th graders learn about Arbor Day

By Staff | May 31, 2019

By Sue Sitter

Tribune Reporter

Fourth graders from three classes at Ely Elementary School enjoyed a sunny Thursday last week with a walk to the baseball diamond near Ellery Park to celebrate Arbor Day.

The 60 students, accompanied by teachers Lindsey Bush, Liisa Foster and Kerry Grochow listened to a presentation by Joel Nichols of the North Dakota Forest Service.

Nichols and Rugby City Auditor Jennifer Stewart divided the students into four groups, each gathering around a spot where a tree would be planted.

“We have two green ash, and two American linden,” Nichols said of the trees.

Stewart indicated city of Rugby park employee dug the holes for the trees, which the groups planted and watered.

“The park district dug the holes, and one thing we’ve been having as a problem is people don’t need to plant them (the trees) as deep as they used to recommend,” Nichols explained.

“At one time, everyone was told to plant their trees deep. The theory was it’s cooler, which is true; there’s more moisture; but one thing they forgot was oxygen. Trees make more oxygen than they use. Anything that grows, when they’re using all the nutrients and energy, they need to replenish oxygen to keep the reaction going,” he said.

Nichols recommended putting the spot where the tree trunk meets the roots, called the trunk collar, even with the soil surface. “If we have that at soil level, then the roots are able to spread out faster, and we get larger trees.”

Stewart said of the presentation, “We tried to make sure everyone had at least something to do with it; whether it was watering, or breaking up soil, but everyone seemed to be pretty good.”

“One of the groups got done early, and decided to enjoy the sunshine, and formed a conga line,” Stewart continued, laughing.

“They were able to keep themselves entertained,” Nichols smiled.

Nichols said two different species of trees were planted to maintain diversity in the park.

“The green ash will be around 50 or a little more feet tall, and 30 to 40 feet wide as far as the canopy,” he noted.

“The linden will get a little bit taller; probably 60-70 feet, and they don’t get as wide, maybe 30 feet wide, depending on the species that you’re working with,” he added.

Nichols indicated ash trees are vulnerable to a non-native pest called the Emerald Ash Borer, which was first discovered in the US in 2002, and has since spread to four Canadian provinces and 35 states, two of which border North Dakota.

“It was found just south of Winnipeg, and just north of Sioux Falls, so it’s not a matter of if we get it; it’s more of a matter of when we get it,” Nichols noted.

“When people ask me, ‘What’s the best tree?’ I say, diversity. Plant as many species as you can find,” he added.

Although National Arbor Day is celebrated in April, North Dakota opted to celebrate the holiday in May, when the ground is more suited for digging and planting.

Arbor Day was set aside to mark the birthday of Jay Sterling Morton, who served as Secretary of Agriculture for President Grover Cleveland. Morton urged Americans “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.”

“In 1945, the state officially adopted Arbor Day as an official day of observance, and that is normally the first Friday of May,” Nichols noted.

“And, one of the governors, I think it was in 1990, said, “Why don’t we just make the whole month of May Arbor Month, because we never know if we’ll have snow the first Friday of May.”

Nichols said North Dakota’s Arbor Day celebrations may take place “on state Arbor Day, or National Arbor Day; whenever a community wants, it can have an Arbor Day.”

Nichols noted celebrating Arbor Day has special meaning in Rugby, because Rugby has the designation “Tree City USA”. Rugby meets the four standards required for the distinction: the city has a tree committee or department; a community tree ordinance; a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita and has an Arbor Day observation and proclamation.

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