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A Time for Trees, A Time for Arboreta

Arbor Day 2022

By Gerard Donnelly

(Citation: Arnoldia, Spring 2022,


Planting and watching trees grow takes time. A long time. The lifespan of a tree may be the equivalent of multiple human generations. This is the good and patient work of arboreta, which requires considerable time horizons to achieve many of their purposes. At The Morton Arboretum, in Lisle, Illinois, we call this “tree time.” The time required to establish, test, and evaluate tree collections and develop beautiful, planted landscapes that inspire people’s interest and appreciation is such that only long-term, multigenerational organizations like arboreta can undertake them.

Given these timescales, I like to say that it is good to be old if you are an arboretum. This year, The Morton Arboretum is celebrating its centennial year, having been established by Joy Morton in 1922. Morton had been encouraged and advised by Charles Sprague Sargent of the then-fifty-year-old Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. The Arnold Arboretum is celebrating its sesquicentennial year, founded in 1872, the same year Morton’s father, J. Sterling Morton, established Arbor Day in Nebraska. The Arbor Day Foundation, created fifty years ago, in 1972, upon the Morton-family legacy of planting trees, is advocating for tree planting on the occasion of its anniversary with a theme of “A Time for Trees.”

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Monday, May 2, 2022