Mississippi State faculty, staff and students planted 400 trees today [Feb. 21] in observance of Arbor Day.
Students from the MSU Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, Waldorf Endowed Scholarship recipients and campus facilities management personnel participated in the tree planting.
Trees native to bottomland hardwood forests were planted in an area along Hail State Boulevard. Northern red oak, yellow poplar, black gum and sweet gum were among those planted.
Hosted by the university's Tree Campus USA Advisory Committee, the event celebrated MSU's designation as a Tree Campus USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The university has held the distinction for four consecutive years.
Andy Ezell, head of MSU's Department of Forestry, spoke to the importance of trees and the legacy created by students participating in the planting.
"Mississippi has 19.7 million acres of forestland, and forestry is the second most valuable commodity in the state," Ezell said. "What you are doing today is planting trees for the future. When you come to campus as alumni, remember the trees you planted here today, and be sure to stop by and see how they have grown."
Ezell noted that sweet gum trees, while not a commercial species, are often referred to as trainer trees because they help nearby oaks grow tall and straight. Similarly, black gum trees also help oaks grow taller, and as part of a bottomland forest, the species produces fruit that is attractive to wildlife. Yellow poplar is a fast growing commercial species. Northern red oak is a highly valued timber species that provides an excellent source of food for wildlife.
Students planted 100 each of the four species in an area susceptible to winter flooding, similar to a bottomland hardwood forest.
Arbor Day is celebrated in April throughout the U.S. but in Southern climates, the holiday is celebrated in February, the best time for tree planting in the Magnolia State.
The MSU Student Chapter of the Society of American Foresters, an organization in MSU's College of Forest Resources, is one of the top three student chapters in the nation and has held the distinction for the last 19 years. The Waldorf Endowed Scholarship was created by the late David Waldorf and Elizabeth Waldorf, both professors at various institutions throughout the Southeast. The scholarship strives to help cultivate future leaders in environmental sustainability.