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Shade Tree Commission
Department of Parks and Recreation

Updated 05/01/2005

Hunterdon County

Friday, April 29, 2005 - 2:00 pm

Shade Tree Commission
Department of Parks and Recreation
Soil Conservation District

The Hunterdon County Shade Tree Commission held its 6th annual Arbor Day ceremony on Friday April 29, 2005 at 2:00 pm at the Route 12 County Complex (near the Emergency/HazMat Building) in Flemington, NJ. Click here for directions.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Commission, Hunterdon County Department of Parks & Recreation and the Hunterdon County Soil Conservation District. The tree planting was held to recognize the 133rd anniversary of Arbor Day. The Commission, Soil Conservation District and Department of Parks & Recreation distributed free White Pine, Douglas Fur, Norway Spruce and Colorado Blue Spruce Pine seedlings to all who attended. The annual event was free and open to the public.

The Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation and the Soil Conservation District were joined at the ceremony by Hunterdon County Freeholders. The Board of Chosen Freeholders adopted a resolution dated 04/26/2005 honoring Arbor Day 2005.

A Copper Beech Tree (pictured above) was chosen as the tree species to be planted to celebrate Arbor Day this year. Belonging to the same family as the Oaks, the Beeches occur over a great part of the world. They are absent in Africa and in southern Asia; but clothe the hills alike of Japan, New Zealand, South Australia, Tasmania, Tierra del Fuego, North America, Norway, Spain, and Asia Minor, and Europe.

The name Beech is in early English boc, bece, or beoce; in German Buche, and in Swedish bok, and signifies either a book or the tree, the two senses being supposed to be connected by the fact that the ancient Runic writings were engraved upon beechen boards. "The origin of the word," says Dr. Prior in his "Popular Names of British Plants," "is identical with that of the Sanskrit boko, letter, bokos, writings; and this correspondence of the Indian and our own language is interesting as evidence of two things, viz.: that the Brahmins had the art of writing before they detached themselves from the common stock of the Indo-European race in Upper Asia, and that we and other Germans have received alphabetic signs from the East by a northern route, and not by the Mediterranean." This last remark of the learned Doctor's refers, of course, to our old black-letter Gothic characters and not to our modern Roman alphabet. As to the name Fagus, it may be of Keltic origin, and in the time of Pliny the Britons, as well as the Gauls, may, as he describes, have mixed the ashes of Beech-wood with goats'-fat to make a red dye for their hair and moustaches; or this name may then have pertained to the Sweet Chestnut, to which tree Caesar may have referred when he wrote that in Britain there was every kind of timber as in Gaul, except "fagum" and the fir.

The Beech requires a thoroughly drained soil, and accordingly flourishes on high ground, whether calcareous or sandy. Its gray stems may thus be seen--often of great girth--throwing out their spreading roots.

Though not glossy, like that of the birch, the smooth, olive-gray bark of the Beech gives it a charm even in the winter months. Then, too, though the lower boughs are often still deeked with the crisp, dead leaves of the previous year, which reflect each transient sun-gleam from their surfaces of polished copper, we can see most clearly the splendid outlines of this king of the forests. Its roots spread far and close together to gain a firm footing that the gale can seldom overcome, and above them towers the smooth unbroken, pillar-like stem, often seen with a girth of from fifteen to twenty feet, and reaching as many feet in height without a branch. When not pollarded, the Beech frequently bifurcates naturally, each branch, of which there may sometimes be three or four, rising vertically, "each in itself a tree," like the clustered columns of a Gothic aisle. From the main branches sweep outwards the more knotted branchlets and twigs, bending slightly downwards, and giving to the whole tree a rounded outline. 

It is in April, however, that the beauty of the Beech generally first commands our attention. The pointed, dull-brown buds assume a more glossy hue. They swell almost visibly from day to day under the influence of the genial sunshine, warmth, and moisture. As the sunlight falls on a sloping Beech-wood from a white cloud hanging in the deep blue of an April sky, it will be seen to glow like a sheet of bronze; and just before bursting, the buds will be almost red. Then on one particular tree, year after year, often on one particular branch, the first leaves burst forth as the clearest emeralds, heralds of the coming of the full spring-tide glory. As they grow in size the leaves deepen in tint. To enjoy them in their fullest beauty, we should walk under the trees when the sun is shining brightly through them, and we can then see each pellucid sunshade to be fringed with a row of most delicate silky hairs--hairs that protect it from undue moisture or the radiating cold of the late frost. When the leaves of each emerald tier of verdure lose these silky hairs, the tree has parted with one of its charms, though when more opaque, as they then are, the glossy surfaces of the leaves, reflecting every glint of sunshine, still render the tree, as a whole, anything but a heavy feature in the landscape.

The idea for Arbor Day originally came from the state of Nebraska. On January 4, 1872, J. Sterling Morton, who was a lover of nature, proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called "Arbor Day" at a meeting of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. Arbor Day was officially designated a holiday in 1949 by the New Jersey state legislature. Today the most common date for the state observances is the last Friday in April, and several U.S. presidents have proclaimed a national Arbor Day on that date. Arbor Day has now spread beyond the United States and is observed in many countries of the world. (Please see the Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholder's Proclamation for Arbor Day 2004 for additional information)

The Hunterdon County Shade Tree Commission is a 5-member commission appointed by the Board of Chosen Freeholders to serve 5-year terms. The Commission meets on the 2nd Wednesday in the months of January, March, May, July, September and November at 7 pm in the Planning Board Conference Room at the County Administration Building. The Commission works with the Hunterdon County Roads, Bridges and Engineering Department to help maintain and enhance the trees within County road rights-of way as well as provides advice to the Department of Parks & Recreation on trees within parklands.

The Commission also provides advice and expertise on landscaping on County building projects. For further information about the Hunterdon County Shade Tree Commission, please contact Commission Chairman Bill Wild at (908) 788-7760

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