Florida Arbor Day

Florida Arbor Day

Author Sheila Dunning removes tree from nursery pot and prepares for planting.
Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension

The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.  The second best time is Arbor Day 2014.  Florida recognizes the event on the third Friday in January, so the next one is January 17, 2014.


Arbor Day is an annual observance that celebrates the role of trees in our lives and promotes tree planting and care.  As a formal holiday, it was first observed on April 10, 1872 in the state of Nebraska.  Today, every state and many countries join in the recognition of trees impact on people and the environment.


Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth’s greatest natural resources.  They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, and help make our landscapes look beautiful.  A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year.  That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four.


The idea for Arbor Day in the U.S. began with Julius Sterling Morton.  In 1854,   he moved from Detroit to the area that is now the state of Nebraska.  J. Sterling Morton was a journalist and nature lover who noticed that there were virtually no trees in Nebraska.  He wrote and spoke about environmental stewardship and encouraged everyone to plant trees.  Morton emphasized that trees were needed to act as windbreaks, to stabilize the soil, to provide shade, as well as, fuel and building materials for the early pioneers to prosper in the developing state.


Sheila works with homeowners to properly install trees. Proper size holes and correct height are important considerations. Click image to learn more. Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension.

In 1872, The State Board of Agriculture accepted a resolution by J. Sterling Morton “to set aside one day to plant trees, both forest and fruit.”  On April 10, 1872 one million trees were planted in Nebraska in honor of the first Arbor Day.  Shortly after the 1872 observance, several other states passed legislation to observe Arbor Day.  By 1920, 45 states and territories celebrated Arbor Day.  Richard Nixon proclaimed the last Friday in April as National Arbor Day during his presidency in 1970.


Today, all 50 states in the U.S. have official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees.  For Florida, the ideal tree planting time is January, so Florida’s Arbor Day is celebrated on the third Friday of the month.  Similar events are observed throughout the world.  In Israel it is the Tu B Shevat (New Year for Trees) on January 16, 2014.  Germany has Tag des Baumes on April 25.  Japan and Korea celebrate an entire week in April.  Even, Iceland, one of the most treeless countries, in the world observes Student’s Afforestation Day.


Trees planted on Arbor Day show a concern for future generations.  The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow and some day provide wood products, wildlife habitat erosion control, shelter from wind and sun, beauty, and inspiration for ourselves and our children.


Trees provide us with many benefits: Across multiple generations they provide beauty, stormwater and sound abatement, and of course fresh air and oxygen.
Photo by Sheila Dunning.

“It is well that you should celebrate your Arbor Day thoughtfully, for within your lifetime the nation’s need of trees will become serious. We of an older generation can get along with what we have, though with growing hardship; but in your full manhood and womanhood you will want what nature once so bountifully supplied and man so thoughtlessly destroyed; and because of that want you will reproach us, not for what we have used, but for what we have wasted.”

~Theodore Roosevelt, 1907 Arbor Day Message


To learn more about Florida’s native trees and how to select appropriate trees for your home or property visit http://hort.ufl.edu/woody/species.shtml


Prevent Tick-borne Illnesses in Florida

Prevent Tick-borne Illnesses in Florida

This fall remains mild despite a couple of recent frosty mornings.

Lone Star Ticks carry Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness.

Lone Star Ticks carry Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness. Photo Courtesy of UF/IFAS Communications

With mild temperatures comes ticks.  Ticks carry and transmit several diseases.

Brown dog ticks are found mainly on dogs and can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

American dog ticks are also usually found on dogs but will also attach to other mammals and humans.  They also can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  American dog ticks can cause paralysis when they attach to the base of the skull or spinal column.  Recovery usually occurs within 24 hours of tick removal.

Gulf Coast Ticks are similar to the American dog tick with larger mouthparts.  They transmit a less severe relative of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  Gulf Coast Ticks are commonly found on the ears of large mammals such as horses and cattle.

Lone Star Tick is the most common human-biting tick in Florida.  They transmit Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness which is similar to Lyme disease.

Black-legged tick, also called deer tick, is most commonly known as the carrier of Lyme disease.

Here are a few ways to prevent tick-borne illnesses:

  • Remove ticks as soon as possible
  • Wear light colored clothing so ticks can easily be seen
  • Keep all clothing buttoned, zipped and tucked-in
  • Use Repellents with 20-30% DEET on exposed skin
  • Apply Permethrins to clothing and allow them to dry before wearing
  • Avoid brushing against plants in tick-infested areas
  • Clear brush along pathways and walk in the middle of pathway

If you are bitten by a tick or develop symptoms, contact your physician.  Early diagnosis is best and makes treating tick disease easier and more effective.


For more information about Florida ticks, go to our Solutions for your Life website.

Living with Coyotes

Living with Coyotes

Coyotes can be a nuisance to pet and livestock owners as well as vegetable farmers. They are true scavengers and will eat just about anything – sheep, calves, poultry, deer, watermelons, snakes, foxes, cats, rabbits, grass, carrion, pet food…

Although they are mainly active at night, coyotes can be seen during daylight hours close to sunrise and sunset.


Photo by J. Gamble

Coyotes are brownish gray in color with light gray or cream colored belly. They have erect pointed ears with a slender muzzle and bushy tail. They weigh between 20-45 pounds and are found in deserts, swamps, tundra, grasslands, brush, forests and even in the suburbs. Coyotes become bolder when living in urban areas and can be a threat to pets. Small dogs and pet cats are easy prey. Garbage cans are another easy food source.

So what can you do to reduce the chance of having a coyote conflict?

  • First, never feed coyotes!
  • Eliminate water sources near your home.
  • Place bird feeders out of reach.
  • Secure garbage containers.
  • Feed pets indoors when possible and store pet food where coyotes cannot access it.
  • Trim shrubbery near ground level to reduce hiding cover.
  • Fence your yard. The fence should be at least 6 feet high with at least 6 inches buried.
  • Don’t leave small children unattended outside if coyotes have been seen in the area.
  • Don’t allow pets to roam free, especially at night.
  • Discourage coyotes from getting too comfortable and close to humans, pets, homes, or  buildings – shouting, loud noises or throwing rocks at them normally works. Coyotes generally will not challenge an adult human.

For additional information please read The Coyote: Florida’s Newest Predator from the University of Florida / IFAS.

Video of coyote in backyard of a home.


The University of Florida is conducting a study of coyote and bobcat diets in Florida. Your help is needed in this study.  Of particular interest is the importance of popular wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, turkeys, and bobwhite quail, livestock, and pets in the diet of these predators. Diets will be determined by examining the stomach contents of coyotes and bobcats legally harvested or obtained in Florida.

We are asking for help in obtaining legally acquired coyote and bobcat carcasses, with or without pelts. We will also accept coyote and bobcat stomachs and intestines if you cannot store the whole carcass.  Carcasses or stomachs and intestines should be frozen in a suitable bag or container, and include the name of contributor, animal sex, date harvested/obtained, and location harvested/obtained. We have obtained a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for this project, and will keep information provided by you for this project anonymous to the extent possible by law. Your assistance with this valuable study is greatly appreciated. Researchers will coordinate combining your animals with others in your area for a pickup or provide instructions for delivery in Gainesville  Please contact Lauren Watine (352-846-0558lnwatine@ufl.edu) or Bill Giuliano (352-846-0575docg@ufl.edu) at the University of Florida for more information.


Take survey to identify Gulf research needs

Take survey to identify Gulf research needs


Gulf of Mexico Research Plan Interim Report

You can provide input to numerous groups around the Gulf of Mexico that are developing regional science and restoration plans or funding Gulf research through a single survey. <<<Click Here to Take the Survey

This survey is part of an update to the Gulf of Mexico Research Plan (GMRP). This project assists the Gulf of Mexico research community in identifying research and related priorities and learning if priorities shifted during the past six years.

Multiple groups already have used input collected through previous GMRP efforts to identify and fund research, and the 2013 survey results will be distributed widely as a service to the research community. The results of this survey will be shared with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), NOAA Restore Act Science Program, National Academy of Science’s Gulf of Mexico Program, Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council and other groups. The GMRP efforts are partially sponsored by NOAA and the four Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant college programs.

Responses will be anonymous, and it will take less than 15 minutes to complete this critical survey. The survey will close on Dec. 13, so complete it today.

For more information contact Steve Sempier, Sea Grant Gulf of Mexico research planning coordinator.