Scots Pine: The Survivalist

Pinus sylvestric

Scots-Pine_3-902[2]The Scots Pine was popular at the turn of the century on old farm fields. Early farmers were familiar with this species from its growth throughout Europe and knew it could tolerate poor, dry soil.

Eventually they found that the trees did not mature into the fine timber stands they envisioned, but often stagnated or had twisted trunks. It was the beginning of the realization that seed sources vary widely and must be matched to the planting site. There are more than 35 different seed sources commercially recognized.

The Scots pine also happens to be amongst the country’s most popular Christmas trees because of their excellent form and great needle retention.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding a Scots pine to your yard.

Environmental Conditions:

  • Scots pine grow well in acidic, clay, loamy, moist, sandy, well drained and well drained soils, they are also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 3-7).
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 60 feet at maturity.
  • Prefers full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight every day.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has thick, scaly, dark grey-brown bark that thins out and turns reddish-orange near the top as the tree ages.
  • Dark green to blue needles extending one to three inches in length.
  • Scots pine seeds are popular among wildlife, owls are known to nest in the trees.

Tag us in a photo with your Scots pine tree!

Christmas at the Mansion: Timeless Traditions


This holiday season in Nebraska City, Nebraska, guests of Lied Lodge and Arbor Day Farm are invited to “Christmas at the Mansion,” a unique opportunity to experience what the holidays were like during J. Sterling Morton’s era. Arbor Lodge, the 52-room mansion, is decorated in its Christmas best and ready to help visitors get into the spirit of the season with vintage décor, special holiday-themed collections on display, tour hosts in period clothing, and other one-of-a-kind touches that make for a memorable wintertime visit.


Red poinsettias and Christmas greens flank the grand staircase at Arbor Lodge, J. Sterling Morton’s 52-room mansion in Nebraska City, Nebraska.

Christmas at the Mansion is available weekends through Dec. 20, 2015 — Saturdays from 10am to 5pm, with an exclusive after-hours look at the mansion also available from 6:30-8:00 pm; and Sundays, 11am to 5pm. Admission ranges from $4 to $10 per person.

The Morton Family regularly hosted dignitaries and well-known guests in their home, and the mansion was often a haven for close friends and extended family during the Christmas season — where music and laughter often filled the halls, where lavish meals were served, and where traditions were kept.                                                                                        

CATM_Dinner Table 02

The Morton Family and distinguished guests gathered at Arbor Lodge for lavish holiday dining, complete with Christmas crackers, similar to the ones shown here.

However – and perhaps not surprisingly – J. Sterling himself was vehemently outspoken against the practice of cutting down healthy trees for Christmas décor purposes. A November 1899 edition of Morton’s three-column weekly newspaper, The Conservative, railed against the tradition, calling it the “mutilation and destruction of the young pine forests,” and adding that “the future generations will want for lumber which these Christmas trees would have made.”

 Regardless of where you stand on the issue of real vs. artificial trees, if you find yourself in Nebraska City, Nebraska, this holiday season, the Christmas at the Mansion experience is one not to be missed. We welcome you to step back in time and see the magic of the holidays through the lens of this distinguished family, and take home some memories of your own.

Complete details about Christmas at the Mansion are available online here.


White Fir: A Comrade to the Foothills

Abies concolor

White-Fir_2-839[1]If you’ve ever been hiking in the Rockies or the Sierras, then chances are you’ve crossed paths with the white fir. The white fir has the largest natural range of any of the western firs—with the exception of its cousin the subalpine fir. It is one of 40 members of its genus worldwide, and nine in North America. This mountain beauty has grown popular outside of its natural habitat as well for its tolerance to harsh conditions. While it’s native to the Sierra and Rocky mountain ranges, it is found as far east as Maine.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions:

  • White fir grow well in most soils including acidic, loamy, sandy and well drained (hardiness zones 4-7). Avoid highly alkaline or clay soils and areas that flood.
  • Slow to medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 30-50 feet at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes:

  • Has blunt needles that display faint white lines on upper stomata.
  • Can take different crown shapes depending on how much space is available.
  • Has a thick, rough bark. Young bark tends to be whitish in color while older bark has resin blisters.

This tree is also a favorite Christmas tree amongst buyers. If you have one in your yard check out our DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, The Natural Way for ideas on decorating it for the season and tag us in a photo of the finished design.

This Cyber Monday Shop The Arbor Day Foundation For Free Shipping


Cyber Monday is a great day! Why is it great, you ask? I’ll tell you! It is the one day out of the entire year you can sit in the comfort of your chair, sip your cup of coffee, and have great deal after great deal available right at your fingertips. Ten years ago the Monday after Thanksgiving was coined as “Cyber Monday” – in short, Cyber Monday is like Black Friday but you get to avoid all the crowds and cold weather and shop from the comfort of your computer. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a great day to me.

The Arbor Day Foundation has unique holiday gift options that give back. We offer Earth-friendly gifts for everyone on your list. Whether it’s tree planting in honor of a loved one, rain forest-saving coffee and chocolate, or an individually packaged evergreen, a gift from the Arbor Day Foundation can truly make a difference for our planet.

On Cyber Monday, be sure to add The Arbor Day Foundation to the list of web sites you shop for great deals and give your loved ones, friends, and colleagues a gift that has a lasting impact on the environment. Shop now for free shipping!

DIY: Decorating an Outdoor Christmas Tree, the Natural Way

The festivities of Christmas call for rambunctious family dinners and social gatherings with friends. The vibrant hues of emeralds, golds and ruby decked through the house and traces of eggnog and gingerbread truly bring the Christmas spirit to life. A common family tradition to kick off the season starts with decorating the family tree, which some consider to be the heart that brings it all together.


Photo from

While you’re probably familiar with the numerous benefits trees deliver by now, we’ll add one more benefit to the list: outdoor Christmas tree. Having evergreen trees in your front yard is convenient during the holiday season when you can take those natural pyramidal frames and dress them up in tinsel and lights that they don’t have the chance to flaunt all year-round. But what if this year, instead of tinsel, you decorated your tree in something a bit more au natural? Something that could give back to the environment?

Here are nine do-it-yourself decorating tips to embellish your outdoor tree that steer away from the traditional glitz and glamor but still make your home welcoming; it’s yet another way of bringing the family together and giving back to the environment, outside critters will thank you.

    • Spray paint pinecones: It’s a sure way to make them pop and still maintain the natural feel. Don’t forget to use a non-toxic spray paint.
    • Cinnamon walnut bundles: Cinnamon is great for decorating because it looks nice, adds aroma, and can be eaten by wildlife. There are numerous ways of using cinnamon sticks, one includes bundling three to four sticks together and stringing them with walnuts to create garland around the tree. Or hang them alone as ornaments, twine compliments it well.
    • Raisins, cranberries, figs: Use whatever dry fruit you have on hand and string them on wire around the tree to pair with garland.
    • Orange/lemon pomanders: This is a fun alternative to ornaments, cut slits around an orange or lemon and let it dehydrate, the crisp scent of citrus is refreshing, and the peels will easily break-down into the soil once you’re done through with your decorations.
    • Led lights: If you’re adamant on adding lights to your display opt for an LED option, they’re more energy efficient. Better yet, go for solar powered, you’ll save on energy costs and eliminate the hassle of cords.
    • Popcorn balls: Popcorn balls are fun and can easily be decorated with frosting. Birds and squirrels are also fans of the salty treat, so don’t be surprised if they pop up among unexpected guests.
    • Gingerbread cookies: Gingerbread is classic and it’s edible, so take advantage of its solid surface, whether it’s frosting the tops or cutting into shapes.
    • Apple slices: Cut thin slices of apple, let it dehydrate, and hang them around the tree.
    • Aluminum cupcake wrappers: If you’re still looking for that finishing touch, aluminum cupcake wrappers are a cheap way of adding some glitz. The reflections of aluminum will shine and the smooth finish should hold up against snow or rain.

As with anything, make it your own. Any of these ideas can be combined or used alone in decorating your outdoor tree. Best of all, cleanup is a breeze because most the items can be eaten by wildlife or used to make compost.

What other natural tips do you have in decorating an outside tree?

Favorite Tree Friday: The Silver Maple

Silver-Maple_3-869[1]A few years back the Arbor Day Foundation used to hold a teen stewardship camp for 13-15 year olds at the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. The camp was a way of bringing teens together and sparking an interest in environmental stewardship.

One year we took tree inventory for Nebraska City. The kids loved it and it was a great way for them to be hands-on. In taking inventory of trees it’s important to know which trees are which. So to help identify silver maple trees, the kids came up with a song to the rhythm of Silver Bells that still rings in my head today. The song described how to identify a silver maple, and simplified the uncertainty that followed when a tree’s identity was in question.

The silver luster that shines off the bark and undersides of its leaves makes me think of those hours with the campers and the fun we had, making it my favorite tree.


Paper Birch: The Quixotic Novelty

paper birch

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli, Flickr

(Betula papyrifera)

Before it became frowned upon as an act of vandalism, people would peel layers of the thin, paper-like bark and write on it as a novel way to send messages, hence the paper birch was born. This New Hampshire state tree is often associated with beauty and romance, and it’s understandable why. With its lean trunk and towering height, the paper birch stands out amidst any forest backdrop. In addition to its early beginnings as a source of paper, the paper birch was also the tree of choice for early canoes because of its light weight and smooth grain.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding it to your tree family.

Environmental Conditions

  • Paper birch grows in acidic, clay, loamy, moist and sandy soils, is also drought tolerant (hardiness zones 2-7).
  • Medium to fast growing tree, growing two to three feet a year and reaching 50-70 feet high at maturity.
  • Does well in full and partial sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Has a distinctive, smooth, white, paper-like bark that curls and peels as the trees ages.
  • Exhibits rich, golden, fall foliage.
  • Note: peeling the bark off will scar the tree with a dark band around the trunk, the area will not grow back with its natural white bark, so resist peeling.

If you could write a message to the forest, what would you say?

A Season of Thanksgiving

What a wonderful time of year this is that gives us the reminder and opportunity to express our gratitude and reflect on those things for which we are most thankful. 

fall leavesIndividually, we might be thankful for our friends or family, for the roof over our heads or food on the table.  It might be that we appreciate good health, which we often take for granted until we or a loved one experiences a problem.  We can also be thankful for colleagues and friends that support us in our work and care about us as people.

As members, supporters, and partners of the Arbor Day Foundation, we’re finding every day how our work positively has an impact on people’s lives. We can all take pride in knowing that we are making a difference.  We are helping people to recover from natural disasters, bringing life back to fire-ravaged landscapes, providing hope and sustenance for coffee growers and their families in rain forests around the globe, and helping to ensure that many people are involved in community forestry throughout the United States. We touch people’s lives in so many ways through our work at the Foundation. Each of us can be proud of and thankful for our contribution to making our world better.

No matter our situation or circumstance, we always have reasons to give thanks.   For me personally, many of the things I mentioned are true.  But I would also like to say “thank you,” to each of you: our members, supporters, and partners.  It is truly our honor and privilege to work with you and to have the opportunity to be a part of this great cause.

Thank you for all you do.

Wishing all a Happy Thanksgiving.


 Matt Harris

Chief Executive

Arbor Day Foundation


Arizona Cypress: The Southern Evergreen

Arizona Cypress

Tolerant of hot and dry conditions, the Arizona Cypress tree is an excellent tree for its native habitat, the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It makes a good windbreak, and it is also widely used for soil erosion planting. It is grown as a Christmas tree and used in the landscape as an ornamental.

Here are a few things to note if you’re considering adding an Arizona cypress to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • The Arizona Cypress grows in acidic, alkaline, drought tolerant, loamy, sandy and well drained soils (hardiness zones 7-9).
  • Medium growing tree, growing one to two feet a year and reaching 40-50 feet high at maturity.
  • Does best in full sun.

Physical Attributes

  • Soft gray-green foliage.
  • Think, fibrous, coarsely shedding bark.
  • Has a pyramidal shape, serving great as an outdoor Christmas tree.

Tag us in a photo with your Arizona cypress!

How We’re Working with Companies to Achieve Sustainability Goals

If there’s one thing for certain here at the Arbor Day Foundation, it’s this: we know trees.

For more than four decades, we have been making the best use of trees as a solution to global issues. Not only do we rely on the support of our nearly one million members, but also the support of our corporate partners to accomplish our mission of inspiring people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. These corporate partnerships are essential for us to be an agent of change—creating high-impact programs that truly make a difference in our world.

How does the Arbor Day Foundation work with organizations?

Flickr Nicola

Photo Credit: Nicola , Flickr

We do this in many ways, but it always starts with building relationships and listening to what the company is specifically looking for. As our relationship grows with an organization, they rely on us to help reach sustainability goals. You’d be surprised how often trees tie to corporate environmental initiatives.

For example, we recently worked with a Fortune 500 company to help achieve its carbon reduction goals. This particular organization set a goal to reduce net emissions by 50% from its 2012 level by 2020. We worked with the organization through our reforestation carbon program in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley to retire verified carbon offsets on the company’s behalf.

When you choose trees as part of your carbon offset strategy, the benefits go far beyond just carbon sequestration in the fight against climate change, including: improved water quality, improved air quality, soil stabilization, job creation, flood control, and wildlife habitat. We also work with organizations on watershed restoration projects, paper reduction, and community rebuilds after natural disasters, to name a few.

Along with reaching specific sustainability goals, we work with organizations in other ways as well, such as engaging and celebrating employees, supporting environmental conservation through education programs, and driving and inspiring consumer purchases.

One of our longest corporate partnerships features 25 trees planted for every product sold. Over the duration of our partnership, more than 1.3 million trees have been planted in our nation’s forests. The company uses tree related messaging in its marketing materials and highlights the impact to its customers. This creates awareness for both the corporate partner and the work we do, all the while positively affecting the earth—truly a win-win for everybody.

Reforestation offers a number of benefits other carbon offset programs cannot. Our team is eager to implement any sustainability goals your organization may have. Challenge us to stay creative—we love developing unique programs specific to your company’s needs.

Visit our Corporate Partnerships page to learn more about what our partnerships can look like, or email us at or call 1-877-445-9917.