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The Gifted Tree Good Environmental News from 2020

2020 has been a difficult year in many ways and most of us won’t be sad when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, ushering in the new year and hope for a better one ahead. There have been many stresses associated with the COVID-9 pandemic and an election year to boot. There have also been unprecedented stresses on the earth and our environment as climate change has wreaked havoc around the world. Forest fires of great size have occurred in all corners of the globe, and storms and other natural disasters have challenged all of us living on the planet. Yet, with all the devastation, there have been good environmental news stories from 2020 that can bring a smile to our face. Stories that your tree planting projects have helped us realize that there was some good news in 2020. And while world-wide forest devastation is an ongoing issue, let’s focus on three tree planting projects that you and The Gifted Tree have been involved in that have made a positive impact in the past year along with two other feel good tree-related stories.

1. India

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, our planting project in India planted many fruit trees which are directly impacting impoverished communities providing long-term fruit harvesting opportunities to farmers and rural villages. As one of the world’s largest food producers, it is an unfortunate irony that India is also home to the largest population of hungry people in the world. As people have lost their jobs and incomes due to the pandemic, food insecurity has skyrocketed among those already vulnerable.

Especially impacted are small farmers across India, who face droughts, floods, fluctuating markets, and now a pandemic. Meanwhile, many water sources are drying up as rivers are diverted, and climate change brings more extreme and less predictable weather patterns. Trees once shaded the landscape and kept soil and moisture in place, but in many parts of rural India, trees have historically been cleared for the expansion of farmland. Today, people are realizing the many benefits of planting trees to help green India and combat hunger.The Gifted Tree planting project in India

With the help of dedicated local tree ambassadors, farmers are given fruit trees and encouraged to practice organic and sustainable farming practices. In this way, planting trees helps foster environmental consciousness and sustainability in rural communities. Trees planted include lemon, guava, custard apple, gooseberry, pomegranate, jack fruit, wood apple, and tamarind. All are native trees that produce a high yield of fruit seasonally or year-round. As these trees mature and yield fruit, they ensure food for local people during difficult times, acting as an insurance policy during times of drought or pandemic-induced insecurity.

2. Florida

You don’t read too much about wildfires in Florida, but they happen. The main objective of this project was to restore longleaf pine forests. Restoration following a fire is essential in restoring the ecosystem, and allowing the land to return to its once thriving state. At one time longleaf pine forests could be found throughout much of the United States, specifically extending from Virginia to Florida and from Louisiana to Texas. Today, only small patches of these trees are found in these areas.

Red Cockaded Woodpecker in Florida

This tree is an evergreen conifer. It gets its name quite clearly from the way the tree looks as it has long needle-like leaves. These trees can survive many different terrains, but they prefer sandy, dry, acidic soils which is perfect for Florida! Longleaf pine ecosystems are some of the most biodiverse in North America. Many animals, including the rare the Red Cockaded Woodpecker will benefit from reforestation as they require forested ecosystems, and access to an abundance of resources.

3. Canada

The Gifted Tree was involved in another planting project to restore trees after fires in another area where you don’t read about forest fires, Canada. This time in British Columbia, where the project is focused on reforestation in the wake of the 2017 Hanceville Fire which ravaged more than 590,000 acres of forest. The Douglas Fir that was destroyed in the fire has a difficult time regenerating naturally. By planting Firs and other diverse species, including lodgepole pine, hybrid spruce, ponderosa pine, and trembling aspen, this area of forest is being regenerated quickly. The species diversity included is designed to create a more climate-resistant forest.

Spectacular scene Planting your The Gifted Tree in Ontario, CanadaDouglas-fir needs live seed trees present to distribute seed. Because of the intensity of the fire there are no live seed trees for many kilometers in some places. Without tree planting, it would likely take many decades to grow back to forested conditions. Planting will greatly speed up the process of returning the forest to its former glory.

Wildfire events commonly cause soil instability and erosion, due to the removal of the top litter layer. A severe fire can also physically alter soil properties making them repel water, which can further exasperate run off and soil erosion. Reforesting fire impacted areas promotes soil stabilization via roots and slows down the percolation of water to the soil via leaves.

4. Self-powered Wildfire Detector

Scientists say they have devised a new, less expensive way to detect forest fires. A way that could alert authorities earlier and hopefully be able to quell a fire before it ravages out of control. The new prototype fire detector doesn’t need batteries; it is powered by a “triboelectric generator” that harnesses small motions to produce energy, generating electricity from the slightest swinging of tree branches. The device requires a breeze to provide power, but fires create air currents, meaning power will likely be readily available. The technology is both fire- and waterproof, and because it has no batteries, there is no risk of leaking harmful metals.

At this point there are only prototypes devices which need to be field tested. But it is an exciting development as the device has several advantages over current fire surveillance approaches. Not only would it be cheaper and easier to operate in the long run, but it would provide more continuous monitoring than satellites, which often appear only periodically over specific parts of Earth. And, unlike satellites, the system would not be blinded by local weather conditions or the smoke and dust of wildfires. Triboelectric nanogenerators have revolutionized tech—from creating self-powered heart-rate monitors to battery-free intruder detectors—and the new device has the potential to do the same with forest fire monitoring. Stay tuned!

5. Using Drones to Plant Trees

Fact – we need to massively reforest the planet and we need to do it in a short amount of time.

Possible solution – Using AI (artificial intelligence) and drones to help with the task.

How does it work? – First, the replanting areas are identified using a combination of satellite images and drone-collected data. Specialized planting drones take to the skies loaded with seedpods containing a germinated seed and nutrients. Once in position, the drones use pressurized air to fire the seeds into the ground – at 120 pods per minute. The seedpods penetrate the earth and start to grow once activated by water.

Experts estimate that using this new technology would enable governments to restore forests much faster than planting by hand and at a much cheaper price. And because the companies involved choose native species and uses its seed pods to protect the seeds from drought, the process doesn’t typically require work from humans to keep the seedlings alive. This technology has the potential to help the world reach ambitious goals to restore forests to stem biodiversity loss and fight climate change.

Exciting news in the tree front in 2020 that can bring a smile to our faces and provide hope in what has been a tough year. Come on 2021!

Lush field of newly planted tree saplings

 

The Gifted Tree has been planting tens of thousands of gift trees since 2013 making it is easy to forget that not everyone understands exactly what a gift tree is. The fact is we get a number of customers contacting us to ask exactly that question: What is a gift tree?  We figured that if several of you are calling or chatting asking about it every week, there probably are many more out there with that same question. Thus, this blog will answer that question along with related questions that have been asked over the years.

In a nutshell, a gift tree is a sapling tree that will be planted in the forest location of your choosing. While a gift tree is a meaningful way to honor or celebrate people and pets, a physical tree is not delivered. Instead, one chooses one of The Gifted Tree’s unique card tributes or animated eCards to send, that is personalized with your custom message announcing the planting and notifying the recipient of your gift. A gift tree is a way to create a lasting, living legacy while at the same time helping combat the effects of forest fires and climate change. The ultimate “green” gift, giving the world a gift, too.

Sapling versus seedlingPlanting a Tree sapling in Rich Soil

Many of us use those terms interchangeably and in reality, there is not much difference. I like to say a sapling is a slightly more mature seedling, just like an toddler is to a newborn baby. Technically, a seedling is the young plant arising newly from the seed. It is the first stage of the growth cycle of a tree. Hence, the seedling is very tender and succulent. It has very small leaves attached and is very vulnerable to animals such as deer. A sapling, on the other hand, is a young tree that is less than one year old. It is the stage following the seedling stage. Saplings have little trunks of 1 to 6 inches in diameter and have more adult looking leaves. Similar to a seedling, a sapling is also a juvenile life stage of a tree. A sapling can originate from a seed, or through a vegetative part such as cutting. Growing tree saplings in a nursery

As was gone into in-depth in a previous blog, https://www.thegiftedtree.com/reforestation-how-to-reforest-after-a-forest-fire/, your gift tree planted by The Gifted Tree starts out as a seed, but is planted as a sapling. These seeds were collected from the area where these seeds turned saplings will eventually be planted, usually a year or so later after having been nurtured in a nursery through the seedling to sapling stage. The reason for this is the sapling grown from the seeds have an extremely high survival rate because they are genetically ready for the climate, altitude and soil conditions of the area.

Living tree Sapling among forest fire destroyed treesIn summary, seedlings and saplings are two juvenile growth stages of a plant that will ultimately become a mature tree. Your gift tree from The Gifted Tree is a sapling because quite simply, it is best suited for long-term survivability and able to endure for generations to come.

 

 

Most popular gift tree reason

The most popular gift tree reason is planting a memorial tree in memory of a loved one or for someone close to you that has lost a loved one. A memorial tree not only can honor a person, but is a meaningful way to memorialize a loyal and faithful pet. A memorial tree is an epic tribute to a life well lived, and not only aids in the reforestation of areas ravaged by forest fire, disease or climate change, it also helps provide comfort to an individual or family at a time of grieving.

And also remember, planting a gift tree is an ideal way to celebrate life events, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, teachers, employee recognition, new births, graduations and holidays. A gift tree fits every occasion – helping you connect on a personal level with someone important to you and acknowledge these important milestones.

 

More Gift Tree FAQs specific to The Gifted Tree

Where is the gif tree planted?

The gift tree is planted in the forest location of your choosing. Unlike other gift tree businesses, The Gifted Tree plants trees around the world, not just in the United States. While there are numerous national and state forest locations to choose from in the U.S., you also can choose from 30+ other planting locations worldwide. No matter the planting location you finally select, the tree is planted by one of our trusted non-profit planting partners and will help combat the effects of forest fires, disease and climate change. There is also an educational component to the gift tree plantings, especially those planted in developing nations. Not only are we planting trees in these regions, but farmers are also being trained in best tree planting methods, nursery preparation, farm conservation and finance, and irrigation management. young smiling children planting trees in MexicoMost of these individuals have no prior knowledge of proper land management techniques, but this training will be a significant factor in the fight against deforestation. They also learn methods and techniques to protect trees to withstand local climatic conditions and thus help to ensure the newly planted trees’ long-term survival.

Are gift trees marked with plaques?

Unfortunately, this is not possible. Your tree is planted among thousands of other gift trees and there is no plaque designating your gift tree, but an official register is maintained in our office. Take comfort in the knowledge that while your gift tree is not designated on the ground with a plaque, it does become part of the much larger forest ecosystem.

Can I specify the species of gift tree to be planted?

While the types of trees planted at a particular project are listed in the planting location details on our website, you are not able to designate the type of tree to plant. We leave it up to the professionals on site to determine the best tree to plant to achieve the project’s goals. Silviculturists (scientists who study how to grow trees) decide on the type of tree that will grow best in an area, and the best time of year to plant. The objectives of the silvicultural prescriptions for planting sites include the reintroduction of tree species that were originally in that particular ecosystem in order to improve the resilience and resistance of the forest to fire, insects, diseases, and the potential effects of climate change.

Can I visit the gift tree I have planted?

Unfortunately, since the trees are not marked and can be in very remote locations, some dangerous to get to, it is not possible to visit your tree. It is possible, however, to visit the general tree planting location virtually on your computer. Information is included in the gift packet along with the certificate with all the details.

When will the gift tree be planted?

The gift tree will be planted at the best suitable planting time for each project, which is typically in the location’s spring or fall. Therefore, depending on when your gift tree was purchased, there could be a gap of time until it is actually planted. This is being done to ensure the long-term survival of the trees as well as to accomplish the goals of the project.

Now that you understand what a gift tree is, whether the gift tree is planted in memory of a lost loved one, or to celebrate a happy life event, know that a lot of scientific thought went into the planting, ensuring that your gift tree will have a lasting impact and be a gift to the earth as well.

 

Massive California Wildfire spreading rapidly

As if the COVID-9 pandemic is not enough, a record number of forest fires have occurred in California this summer. It is hard to pick up a newspaper these days, or turn on the television news, without reading about one of the 30+ fires devastating the state. Millions of acres of forest growth have burned to the ground, homes and other structures destroyed and the saddest part, human lives have been lost. And this epic year for wildfires has occurred BEFORE the typical forest fire season of October and November even starts. As California governor Gavin Newsom has stated, “This is a challenging year. It is historic in terms of magnitude, scope and consequence.”

With the acreage size of the fires burning being larger than some states in the northeast U.S. we at The Gifted Tree keep getting this type of question: What are the forces driving this record fire year? Fire experts say it’s not one thing causing the shocking series of infernos. “It’s a perfect storm of factors that have all come together,” said Jon Keeley, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey at Sequoia National Park. We thought it would be educational to take a brief oversight of the factors that are contributing to this unprecedented string of wildfires.

  1. Excess Fuel

One of the difficulties when it comes to mitigating wildfires in California is that, in recent decades, an increasing amount of the state is vulnerable. As the NY Times reported, “the engineering and land management that enabled the state’s tremendous growth have left it more vulnerable to climate shocks. While California is one of America’s marvels, by moving vast quantities of water and suppressing wildfires for decades, the state has transformed its arid and mountainous landscape into the richest, most populous and bounteous place in the nation. But that growth comes with a prices.

It’s counter intuitive, but the U.S.’s history of suppressing wildfires has actually made present-day wildfires worse. According to Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, “For the last century we fought fire, and we did pretty well at it across all of the Western United States. And every time we fought a fire successfully, that means that a bunch of stuff that would have burned didn’t burn. And so over the last hundred years we’ve had an accumulation of plants in a lot of areas. And so in a lot of California now when fires start, those fires are burning through places that have a lot more plants to burn than they would have if we had been allowing fires to burn for the last hundred years.” This legacy of fire suppression and lack of good forest stewardship has led to a growth of highly flammable shrubs and bushes, a huge buildup of fuels and debris.

As the New York Times reports, in an effort to protect homes and encourage new building, governments for decades focused on suppressing fires that occurred naturally, allowing the buildup of vegetation that would provide fuel for future blazes. Even after the drawbacks of that approach became clear, officials remained reluctant to reduce that vegetation through prescribed burns, wary of upsetting residents with smoke or starting a fire that might burn out of control.That approach made California’s forests more comfortable for the estimated 11 million people who now live in and around them. But it has also made them more susceptible to catastrophic fires.

  1. Climate change creating heat waves

In recent years, California’s climate has gotten hotter and drier. This combination of conditions mean less snowpack in the Sierras, less runoff in the spring, and less moisture for vegetation. These conditions have made it especially easy for massive wildland fires to ignite and quickly burn through parched vegetation. According to the NY Times, nine of the 10 largest fires in the state’s history have occurred in the past ten years, and it’s no coincidence that nine of the ten hottest years on record have happened since 2000. In August, while it is still being evaluated, Death Valley in Southern California possibly reached the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth.  Last Labor Day Weekend brought one of California’s hottest periods ever observed. Extreme heat means drier vegetation, and more difficulty putting out fires.California Wildfire Outside Los Angeles as seen from a plane window

The effects of the greenhouse gases humans produce underlie everything that occurs in the atmosphere, and the tendency of climate change to make dry places drier over time is a warning of a fiery future. And the state’s fire season has gotten considerably longer, too, extending up to 75 days, in some cases. In reality, “fire season” is a remnant of cooler world. “It just gets harder to predict,” Faith Kearns, of the University of California Institute for Water Resources in Oakland, told National Geographic. “We used to have a much more reliable rainy season and fire season, and a lot of variables are just shifting at the moment.”

  1. Unusual Weather Conditions

A dry winter last year is a contributing factor. Snowpack in the mountains was very low and actual rainfall was at or below normal. When California has dry winters, moisture levels dry up earlier in the summer in grasses, shrubs and trees. Fires start more easily and spread faster. Furthermore, this historic stretch of drought has caused millions of dead trees. The drought leaves a legacy on the landscape of fire fuel that persists for many years, even after the drought is over.

Additionally, in mid-August, a series of freak summer storms blasted California with more than 14,000 lightning strikes and almost no rain. More than one-third of all the acres that have burned this year came from that lightning. And don’t forget about the Santa Sana winds which run from October through April. These strong gusts, which bring dry air into Southern California tend to spread fires even faster than what we are experiencing now, and burn closer to urban areas, moving embers and spreading fires.

  1. People

While lightening strikes have started many of the forest fires in August, more often than not, humans are responsible for igniting the fires. “California has a lot of people and a really long dry season,” Williams said. “People are always creating possible sparks, and as the dry season wears on and stuff is drying out more and more, the chance that a spark comes off a person at the wrong time just goes up. And that’s putting aside arson.”

There’s another way people have contributed to wildfires: in their choices of where to live. People are increasingly moving into areas near forests, known as the urban-wildland interface, that are inclined to burn. Thus, California’s large population and the need to inhabit more fire prone areas means that when disasters do strike, they affect large numbers of people and property.California Wildfire Aerial View

Solutions

Needless to say, the wildfire situation in California is complex, one which does not produce simple, easy answers. While climate change is certainly a major factor in the increase in California wildfires, ultimately, determining the links between any individual fire and climate change takes time and analysis. But the effects of the greenhouse gases humans produce underlie everything that occurs in the atmosphere, and the tendency of climate change to make dry places drier over time is a warning to the West of a fiery future.

Some possible solutions? More forest thinning, better building codes, more renewable energy, a more robust power grid, experts say. Some suggest the state needs to rethink the way it fights fires, from response to planning, which would take the entire restructuring of a system. Prescribed burns and forest-thinning are, again, options to protect some communities from wildfires. “Technically, we have all the tools to do this,” UC Berkeley forest ecologist and climate change scientist Patrick Gonzalez says. “The more that people realize that proactive fire management can avoid the catastrophic wildfires … the more people hopefully will favor proactive fire management.”

But the reality is any and every action California is taking so far is incremental. Park Williams, a climate scientist at Columbia’s Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory in New York stresses,  “No matter how hard we try, the fires are going to keep getting bigger, and the reason is really clear, climate is really running the show. Fundamentally, the main solution to a lot of the fire problems that we have [is] taking action on climate change. To be carbon-free is the ultimate end goal, and the sooner we reach that, the better it will be for nature and for people.”

In the short term? Be careful with fire. Understand how to reforest areas after devastating wildfires. Plant more trees in California (The Gifted Tree has a number of planting projects) and other areas in the United States in a smart way to help regrow the areas lost to wildfires. And pray for rain.

Colorful field of wild flowers

With the COVID-19 pandemic dominating the news and our lives, and with stress levels soaring because of it, I thought I would discuss a topic of a lighter note: Wildflower and Tree Seed Bombs. While it might suggest a topic of a less serious note, some of the words associated with the subject have some severe associations. Just the word “bomb” does not bring to mind something the family can make and do together. On the contrary, making these seed bombs is also a fun family project while we are subject to stay-at-home laws.

And the hobby of “guerrilla gardening” also does not conjure up an image of a fun way to spend a weekend day. Though it sounds radical, guerrilla gardening is not an overtly political or polarizing endeavor. Its objective is simple: transform unused land into gardens. People all over the globe are drawn to this humble mission and are taking up arms in the form of shovels, compost, plants, bulbs, and seed bombs in an attempt to bring their communities back to life.Urban guerrilla gardening site with new plants and trees

One might think that wildflower and tree seed bombing is a newfangled hipster way to plant seed and help the environment, but not so. Even though one can throw the seed bombs out of a moving car, from a bicycle, or on a hike, seed bombing is an ancient practice that goes back to the feudal days of Japan. While on the surface it seems like a simple concept, like most things in life, to get the most good out of it, one needs to put a little thought into it. Furthermore, believe it or not, seed bombing can be illegal, so here are some tips from a New York Times article and from a few other DIY gardening articles.

Recipe

While there are a number of seed bomb recipes one can use, make sure you use one that can lead to the greatest rate of seed germination and ultimate success. Just like any good recipe in the kitchen, for this garden recipe you will need a mixing bowl and baking sheets. Summarizing a recipe from Daniel Cunningham, a horticulturalist at Texas A&M, add one-part native wildflower seed mix to four parts powdered clay and five parts fine-gained compost. Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly and stir in water slowly until you have a thick bread-dough consistency.

Gather a small pinch of this seed-infused mud mixture and roll it into marble-sized balls. A cup of seeds can yield dozens of the seed bomb balls. Set the balls on a cookie sheet and let them dry in the sun. These clay balls protect the seed from the heat of the sun. They’re heavy enough to be unaffected by the wind or heavy rains and the hard clay casing deters animal nibblers as well. Person holding a seed bomb ball in their fingersIn dry areas, the shape of the ball actually gives enough shade to conserve moisture. The seeds begin to germinate, and the ball breaks apart. The small pile of crumbles provides the start for the root system but is still heavy enough to anchor the emerging seeds to the ground.

Types of seeds to use and when to plant

Make sure the seeds you are using are native to your area, whether they be wildflower or tree seeds. The last thing you want to do is introduce invasive species to your area. I have spent countless hours in the local National Park and surrounding areas removing invasive species that are wrecking havoc on old established forest growth.

Fall to early spring is the best time to make and throw seed bombs. Seed bombs need water and moderate temperatures to succeed. The seeds of many northern species need to experience a winter cold period before the seeds will germinate. Sowing the seeds during the cold and wet time of year will give these seeds the best chance to work their way into a soil niche and provide the cold stratification they need for germination. By mid-May, the landscape begins to warm, and the soil dries out. This makes late spring a riskier environment for seed germination if you cannot provide supplemental water.Tree Seed Bomb

Leaving a Positive Impact

Now that your seed bombs are ready to go and the time of year for planting is right, now what. Believe it or not, you just can’t throw your seed bombs wherever you want. It can actually be illegal to do so. We don’t want you to end up in jail! Don’t throw your seed bombs on farm land, you don’t want to interfere with agricultural production. If in an urban area, while most people won’t call the police on you for trying to liven up a blighted area, it is best to get permission first so you won’t be accused of vandalism or trespassing. Seed bombs are a delightful idea and, if done with the planning previously discussed, I really can’t see why anyone would reasonably object.

Using native plant seed balls is a great way to reseed the landscape and to reclaim bare patches of land. In Texas, some of the highest concentrations of wildflowers can be found along highways thanks in part to the work of former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, over 50 years ago. And there have even been proposals in recent years to adopt the idea on an industrial scale to repopulate vast areas with trees. Reforesting devastated, blighted areas that are lacking vegetation is what The Gifted Tree advocates, by planting memorial and celebration trees in 30 plus countries worldwide. As Lady Bird Johnson once said: “ugliness is so grim.”Beautiful purple wildflowers along Texas highways

Leap year graphic of person jumping over a canyon

As we all know, this Saturday, February 29, 2020, is a Leap Day . Leap year is a calendar year that contains an additional day added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical year or seasonal year. Leap years are necessary because the actual length of a year is 365.242 days, not 365 days, as we are taught early on. Because astronomical events and seasons do not repeat in a whole number of days, calendars that have the same number of days in each year drift over time with respect to the event that the year is supposed to track. By inserting an additional day, the drift can be corrected.

The Leap Year Tree – a New Tradition

There are several traditions around the world associated with Leap Year, but none in the United States as far as we know. While we know every day is a great day to plant trees, The Gifted Tree proposes that leap day, February 29th, become an extra special day to plant trees. If you follow our logic, which I will explain in a moment, the world’s deforestation issue will certainly be helped.

Leap Year History

First of all, some history – The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BCE and replaced the Roman calendar. Julius Caesar’s goal was to simplify things and he was behind the origin of leap year. However, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII further refined the calendar (the Gregorian calendar) with the rule that leap day would occur in any year divisible by four. This is the calendar that we in the United States use today.Tree frog on tree branch

Leap Year – Historical Traditions

Regarding historical leap year traditions, February 29 is a big day in Ireland and is known as Bachelor’s Day, the day where women are encouraged to initiate dances and propose marriage. According to an old Irish legend, St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every four years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how leap day balances the calendar.

In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on leap day, just as Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many. Greeks consider it unlucky for couples to marry during a leap year, and especially on Leap Day. Leap day is also St. Oswald’s Day, named after the archbishop of York, who died on February 29, 992. And in many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 must buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition!

The Leap Tree Frog

None of those traditions seems to have carried over to this country, but as stated above, The Gifted Tree proposes that Leap Day be an extra special day to plant trees. Follow our “logic” and I think you will agree. Leap Year and Leap Day are, for logical reasons, associated with frogs. And Tree Frogs are very popular. And what do Tree Frogs like? Trees of course. Thus, we need to plant more trees so that the habitat of the tree frog is perpetuated and we will always have tree frogs to dazzle us.Tree frog on tree

“Logic” Wins Out

But just as important to helping tree frogs, if we plant a tree on Leap Day, February 29th, in a hundred years when trees when trees not planted on leap day will be reaching their life span, our Leap Year trees will only be 25 and in the prime of their existence!. The trees we plant on February 29th will last four times as long and will help solve the earth’s deforestation problem. A simple solution with far-reaching benefits: Helping the habitat of our tree frog friends and increasing the globe’s tree canopy.

Do Your Part

So, this Saturday, February 29th, as the sun starts to rise,  help start our new tradition of planting Leap Trees, be it in celebration or in memory, and give the world an extra-lasting gift too!

Leap year sunrise

Christmas Tree Farm

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree …

We all know the song, but do we know that there are 25 – 30 million real Christmas trees sold in the United States every year. And currently there are an additional 350 million trees growing on Christmas tree farms in this country on approximately 350,000 acres of green land. We will get back to some more fun facts in a moment, but where did this industry get its start? An industry that supports 15,000 Christmas tree farms and employs over 100,000 full and part-time people. (Full disclosure: you can not plant a gift tree on a Christmas tree farm with The Gifted Tree, but we do plant in 30+ countries.)

The History of the Christmas Tree

The history of the Christmas Tree stretches back over 2,000 years, and according to historian Deemer Cass of the London-based Fantastic Gardeners, Christians weren’t the first to admire and decorate Christmas trees. Pagans used to worship evergreen trees as a symbol of fertility.  Plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

According to History.com, Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition, as we now know it, in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

How did the tradition come to America?

Christmas Tree on a Boat

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

In 1846, History.com reports that the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society.

The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Christmas tree fun facts

Christmas Tree Farm in Winter with SnowChristmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850.

It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 – 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.

Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska. The top Christmas Tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington.

The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in 1931 but had humble beginnings. According to The New York Times, the tradition started during the Great Depression when construction workers put up a mere 20-foot tree in the plaza and decorated it with paper garlands, strings of cranberries, and tin cans. Today, a Norway spruce no taller than 100 feet is chosen every year, is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star that weighs more than 9,000 pounds.

Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House. While in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.

Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.

77 million Christmas trees are planted each year, and on average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.

Other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.

Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees instead of traditional candles. It stood in Edison’s power plant in Manhattan, set on a rotating box so that passersby could see all 80 blinking red, white, and blue lights. In 1882, no one had seen anything like it.Christmas Tree Lights

In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1979, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted except for the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.

Teddy Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons. Realize that Christmas trees are a home to a lot of insects and microorganisms, so when you bring one home, make sure you shake it thoroughly before bringing it inside.

In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.

Christmas trees were once hung upside down like chandeliers, and that custom is still common in parts of Europe.

In 1984, the National Christmas Tree was lit on December 13th with temperatures in the 70s, making it one of the warmest tree lightings in history.

The best-selling trees are Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir and White Pine, although the Nordmann Fir is considered the leader among Christmas trees. The Nordmann Fir has been a popular Christmas tree choice in Europe for a number of years and is gaining momentum in the United States. It’s preferred among other evergreens due to its excellent needle retention, the softness of the needles and how it’s perfect for people with allergies. The tree’s lack of the usual Christmas tree aroma makes it ideal for those who can’t tolerate the fragrance, according to HolidayTreeFarm.com.

Real vs. artificial Christmas trees.

If you prefer an artificial tree, you’re not alone. This option is cheaper and lower maintenance. Artificial trees date back to the 1880s, when Germans looking to offset deforestation made the first ones from dyed goose feathers held together with wire. Since then, people around the world have made fake trees out of aluminum, cardboard, and glass, although most artificial Christmas trees sold today are made from PVC plastic with about 80% made in China.

Unfortunately, most fake trees contain non-biodegradable plastics and possible metal toxins such as lead. Real Trees are a renewable, recyclable resource and are grown for the purpose of being a Christmas tree. “You’re not doing any harm by cutting down a Christmas tree,” Clint Springer, a botanist and professor of biology at Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s University, told The New York Times in a recent interview. “A lot of people think artificial is better because you’re preserving the life of a tree. But in this case, you’ve got a crop that’s being raised for that purpose.”

There are also more than 4,000 local Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States. And the trees have been used to make sand and soil erosion barriers and placed in ponds to provide shelter for fish. Just don’t burn them in your fireplace as the soot can be bad for your chimney.

Christmas Tree in a Car

Whichever type of tree you choose, just be safe. Christmas trees have, on average, started 160 house fires per year. We want everyone to relax, enjoy and spend some good quality time with the family this holiday season. Happy Holidays from The Gifted Tree!

 

Connect Personally - Benefit Globally - Support A Cause

The Gifted Tree has always helped the earth by planting trees worldwide to counteract the devastating effects of forest fires and climate change, but we have added a new wrinkle. Your gift tree will still help you connect with someone special to you and give the world a gift too, but now you can also help support a cause.

Announcing Our Trees for a Cause Planting Program

The Gifted Tree announces our Trees for a Cause win-win-win partnership program. Win 1 = Connect on a personal level with someone important to you and show them you care. Win 2 = By planting a tree, you are helping the earth, counteracting the devastating effects of forest fires and climate change. Win 3 = Directly help the hard work of a worthwhile cause by planting your gift tree in a charity-specific “Giving Grove,” located in a U.S. National Forest. When you choose our Trees for a Cause program, The Gifted Tree will donate 10% of the purchase price to that organization to help fund their valuable programs.

Our Military Kids Logo - Empowering Military Kids

Our Military Kids Partnership

Our first partnership is with Our Military Kids and their “Giving Grove” is called the Empower Tree Grove and is located in a U.S. National Forest. Since 2004, Our Military Kids empowers military kids by funding sports, arts, and other enrichment activities when their parents are deployed overseas with the National Guard or Reserves or recovering from severe injuries sustained in a post-9/11 overseas mission.

National Guard and Reserve families sometimes have trouble accessing support services from military installations. During deployments, these families may lose income when their military member leaves a civilian job to accept a military position overseas. The loss of income and lack of resources can create gaps that are hard on families. Our Military Kids fills these gaps with a simple grant program that pays for their children’s activities.

Wheel-chair bound amputee military father helping his daughter on the playgroundWhen military members are injured in service to our country, their families face many changes. They may have to move closer to medical care or change their comfortable routines. Children must often take a back seat while parents deal with more pressing issues related to medical care, financial strains, and other adult responsibilities. Our Military Kids grants ease the financial strain on parents while giving their children the chance to participate in positive activities that will help them laugh, grow, and feel connected to the community.

The History of Our Military Kids

In early 2004, Our Military Kids started small, with a pilot program focused on a National Guard unit from Winchester, Va. The pilot program was extremely successful, and they expanded to help all deployed Reserve and National Guard families living throughout Virginia. Air Force father holding his daughter

Calls from deploying soldiers were sometimes heartbreaking. Feeling the need to help more children cope with the challenges brought on by lengthy separations, Our Military Kids began covering families living in Maryland, the District of Columbia and, eventually, the entire United States.

In 2008, Our Military Kids expanded its program once again, this time to include children of service members and veterans from all branches of service who were severely injured in post-9/11 combat operations, and whose families were struggling to deal with financial and emotional hardships.

Today, Our Military Kids is a national organization. Funded entirely by private donors, foundations and corporate sponsors. Since its inception, the group has provided more than 67,000 grants to military families across the country, allowing military kids the opportunity to participate in sports, arts and other activities while their parents are deployed or recovering from severe injuries sustained in combat. Participation in these activities helps military children cope with stress and build self-confidence while their parents are recovering or serving overseas.

4-Star Rating

While The Gifted Tree is so impressed with the mission of Our Military Kids, we are also attracted to the group’s financial acumen and transparency.  Our Military Kids has earned the highest possible 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator, the leading charity watchdog organization. Because of the group’s careful money management, a high percentage of donation dollars is going directly to fund kids’ grants, something that is important to The Gifted Tree and guided its decision to include the organization in our Trees for a Cause program.Two Our Military Kids children proudly holding their grant award certificates

How It Works

If you want to plant a tree in memory of, in celebration of or in honor of someone close to you and make a difference in a child’s life, consider our Trees for a Cause option. For Our Military Kids, help their worthwhile cause by planting in their Empower Tree Grove located in a U.S. National Forest. The exact location will be noted on the tree planting certificate. Choose from any of our certificate presentation options and select “Trees for a Cause – Our Military Kids” in the Tree Planting location in the drop down on the order page. Ten percent (10%) of the purchase price of your gift tree will be donated to the organization to directly help fund its programs, which ease stress for military kids by paying for participation in sports, fine arts, & tutoring programs while their parents are serving their country overseas or recovering from battle wounds.

Choose Trees for a Cause and help support Our Military Kids. Learn more or plant your tree by clicking here.

 

Beautiful assortment of painted rocks with inspirational messages painted on them

Here at The Gifted Tree, we receive comments from many of you who have received gift trees, and one common thread throughout is that the planting of a gift tree shows that the gift giver really cares. Whether it is to honor a lost loved one or to celebrate one of life’s milestone events, the recipient mentions how it is one of the most thoughtful gifts they have ever received.

The other day, I was on my typical weekend hike in the park when I sat down on a bench to get some wood chips out of my shoe. When I bent down to take off my shoe, I happened to notice a beautifully painted rock sitting in the grass next to one of the legs of the bench. Not only did the sun reflecting off the purple color catch my attention, but the beautifully painted design, along with the words “Life is beautiful, enjoy every moment,” could not be ignored.

I picked the rock up for a closer inspection, and on the other side were painted words directing me to the website GoRock.com.  Painted rock with GoRock website URL and identifier number painted on the bottomPutting the rock in my water bottle holder pouch, I logged onto the website once I was back in my office. I discovered that this wasn’t some random rock that had fallen out of a kid’s backpack, but it had purposely been placed for someone to find, and that someone was me. Online, I could type in the rock identifier number on the label and discover where the rock was painted and the path it had taken before I discovered it.

It brought a smile to my face, and also the realization that the person who painted this rock had some of the same motives as our gift tree customers – wanting to show he or she cares. Just as The Gifted Tree plants gift trees in 20+ locations around the world, GoRock is a global community of rock painters spreading positive vibes all over the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

And just as you can virtually visit the areas around the world where your gift tree has been planted, on GoRock.com, you can see how many people have found that rock, and on a virtual world map, the journey that rock has taken around the globe.

Beautifully painted rock with inspirational message laying next to tree trunkAnd just as planting a gift tree can help you express your feelings, show you care, and connect on a personal level with someone important to you, finding a simple painted rock can help spread love, joy, and inspiration. Both gift trees and painted rocks stand out and have a lasting impact. Now I just must decide where I will re-hide the rock so that I can bring a smile to someone else’s face and have them create their own story of discovery!

 

Yours treely,

Doug

Forest and Mountain Stream

One question we receive frequently at The Gifted Tree concerns the role trees play in the keeping our water supply safe and clean. When one thinks of forests and majestic trees, a lot of us understand the vital role trees play in helping clean the air we breathe by acting as filters and removing harmful particles and pollutants.  Those same people are less familiar with the role trees play in purifying our water sources, including those that provide drinking water for millions of Americans every day.

Water is probably the most vital resource for our survival. Whether it be for drinking water or washing our clothes, the average American uses an estimated 80-100 gallons of water per day. For many of us, having access to clean drinking water and running water in our homes is a necessity that we often take for granted.

People are not the only ones who count on water for survival. Trees and animals also need water for their existence. Water availability has a direct impact on the health of forests and their inhabitants. Trees are made up of more than 50 percent water and need a steady source of it in order to grow and stay healthy. A single mature oak can consume over 40,000 gallons of water in a year!

Tree in Front of Magnificent WaterfallOkay, trees need water to survive, but how do they help in improving our water quality? Trees improve water quality by slowing rain as it falls to the Earth, and helping it soak into the soil. Trees then serve as natural sponges, collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. Tress are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality. They prevent soil from eroding into our waterways which contribute to poor water quality, reduce storm water runoff, and lessen flood damage. Furthermore, the movement of water from the ground, through trees and leaves and back to the environment, allows for clouds to form and significant precipitation to fall.

Having a buffer of forestland by streams and riverbanks does more than just filtering the water. Planting and maintaining woody vegetation along streams provide a wealth of benefits, including filtering sediment, removing nitrogen and phosphorous leaching from adjacent agricultural land uses, and providing stability to the bank through a wood root system. Forest cover has been directly linked to reducing drinking water treatment costs and helping to recharge the water table by allowing water to enter the ground, so the more forest in a source water watershed, the lower the cost to treat that water.

Now you know another of the multitude of benefits trees provide. Luckily, one easy way to protect and clean our water supply is to plant trees, and The Gifted Tree can help. We plant gift trees to show you care – memorial trees in remembrance of a lost loved one, human or pet, or gift trees to celebrate a milestone event.  Not only will you be remembered due to the unique and innovative presentation tree certificate the recipient will receive, but you are giving the world a gift too – clean water.

Trees and Mountain Stream

One question we get at The Gifted Tree is “Why plant again after a forest fire, aren’t you just setting the scenario for another forest fire?” As with most issues in life, there are two sides to the story. Since here at The Gifted Tree we plant gift trees, I will lean toward the “plant again” side.

Wildfire is a necessary and important part of a natural landscape, but it is undeniable that some wildfires have harsh and negative impacts on communities, water resources, outdoor recreation resources, and fish and wildlife habitat. In these cases, post-fire restoration can be crucial to prevent further damage and to spur recovery. Reforestation is important in creating wildlife habitat, decreasing soil erosion, encouraging snow retention, sequestering carbon, providing clean air and water, and reestablishing native tree species and future seed sources.

Damage from some wildfires doesn’t always stop once the flames are suppressed and the smoke clears, and is sometimes more devastating than the fire itself. Loss of vegetation as a result of an intensely burning large fire can expose soil to erosion. We have all read about the recent fires in California followed by torrential rains creating massive and deadly mud slides.

The sight of blackened earth after a fire is hard to take, but in this plight, patience is a virtue. While every fire situation is different, post-fire restoration is a process that can take years. Sometimes the trees can grow back on their own – the blackened trees lining the ground hide what is going on their underside ─ sometimes there is new growth which can spawn new trees as well as provide a habitat for wildlife such as birds. Also. while the temperatures at surface level can be very high, destroying all vegetation, just below the surface, the temperatures can be quite normal. Thus, in certain situations, root systems remain intact and will regenerate on their own.

In other situations, fires burn with such intensity that no seed source remains, and humans need to be the catalyst. In these situations, the reforestation action starts with a seed, literally. The forest service is in the business of constantly collecting seeds from different elevations and different species of trees from forests all over the country. These seeds are carefully labeled so that when they are needed, they are replanted in the exact area where, or very near to where, they were harvested. In fact, in addition be being geographically replanted in the same area, seeds are planted at the same elevation within 700 feet from where they were collected. That means a Ponderosa Pine seed collected in Colorado would not be planted in Idaho. Or one collected in Northern Colorado would not be replanted in Southern Colorado. If collected and handled properly, these seeds can be viable for 30 to 40 years.

The Gifted Tree works with partners who focus on planting where the greatest reforestation needs exist, in areas impacted by large-scale fires or insects and disease where there is virtually no probability the area will reforest on its own. In those cases, seeds are ordered from the seed bank nursery and the nursery workers find the ones collected from the area when the devastation occurred.

Once the seeds are carefully inspected and the duds discarded, they are planted in holes made in large Styrofoam blocks. Those blocks lay end-to-end in the glass greenhouse, where workers nurse them along until the next viable planting season. That means the seedlings will not be ready to plant until at least one year after a fire. At the same time, Forest Service experts prepare the burned area and make sure it is safe for the workers and the soil is ready for planting.

At precisely the right moment, usually late spring, or early summer, the baby trees are shipped back to the forest for planting. They have a very high survival rate because they are genetically ready for the climate, altitude and soil conditions of the area.

Reforestation is a scientifically honed process, a picture that takes a while to complete. The Gifted Tree works with agencies that not only plant your gift tree where it has the best chance for growth but revisit the planting areas for several years after to ensure long-term viability. So whether the gift tree is planted in memory of a lost loved one, or to celebrate a happy life event, know that a lot of scientific thought went into the planting ensuring that your gift tree will have a lasting impact and be a gift to the earth as well.  Discover more on the three steps to planting a gift tree at https://www.thegiftedtree.com/build-your-gift-in-three-easy-steps/.

Yours treely,

Doug