The plaque on the historic trail that gives information about Kentucky's Sassafras tree. Nice to see such prominent information about a tree. Photo taken by Janice Atkinson-Kiesel with thanks.

Today is Arbor Day in the US. It is a huge event across America with tree-planting activities & celebrations. “On Arbor Day, people are encouraged to plant & care for trees. A wide range of events are organized to promote Arbor Day. These include: communal tree planting ceremonies; proclamations by city governments; exhibitions & educational activities on trees & their importance to local communities & the planet as a whole; & fairs, musical performances & open days in garden centers. Schools are encouraged to plan lessons around the theme of trees. Arbor Day awards are also presented to individuals & organizations across the United States & around the world. These are awarded for outstanding service to trees, forestry or related ecological themes.  All states in the US now have an official Arbor Day, usually at a time of year that is has the correct climatological conditions for planting trees.”

The American people love & respect their trees & prepare for months for this occasion.  In 2011 8-million trees were planted by volunteers across the US.

Just this morning I was given the chorus of a song sung at school for Arbor Day in the US – “trees…. trees…. beautiful trees…. plant them & help them grow. Care is repaid by cool green shade….. trees…. beautiful trees….”  When you grow up singing words like this & actively celebrating trees with the adult community, love & respect for trees becomes a natural part of your culture.

To celebrate & acknowledge Arbor Day, this Postcard from Elsewhere pays homage to a special Sassafras tree living in Owensboro Kentucky.

Reading the word sassafras instantly transports me back to early primary school. For some unknown reason the word sassafras was a favourite along with the spelling of Mississipi.  Remember Mrs M, Mrs I, Mrs double-S I?   Sassafras was a swear word for 8-year-olds. Worst was when we hissed the word accentuating the sss-sound.  Even as I write the word I can remember the feeling shouting sassafras at others. When I got older I learnt it was the name of a tree, but it was only today that I learnt that this tree is an ingredient of root beer, something I’ve not tasted yet.

Earlier this year, one of my friends on FaceBook  Janice Atkinson-Kiesel sent me a couple of photos of her favourite tree.  It is a street tree &

Here it is in winter. Photo supplied by Janice Atkinson-Kiesel with thanks.

coincidentally, the world’s largest Sassafras tree.  That such a large & important tree is a street tree is amazing to me.  I can’t imagine any street tree in Marrickville LGA being allowed to grow for so long or to become as large as this one, but then again, America has a different attitude & approach to street trees & trees as a whole.

Owensboro’s Sassafras tree is a historic landmark tree & stands over 30.48 metres tall (100 ft).  It has a girth of 6.4metres (21 ft).  As a comparison, most Sassafras grow to between 9-15 metres (30-50 ft) so this Sassafras is just over double the average height of this species of tree.

Remember it is a street tree so will have had to cope with all the obstacles & hazards associated with being a street tree & it has been doing this for around 300-years.

It was to be chopped down in 1957 because the authorities wanted to widen the road (reminds me of the current battle to save the historic trees along King George V Avenue in Tamworth – ). However, a rather spunky woman called Grace Rush prevented this from happening by standing under the tree pointing a gun at anyone who came close.  Eventually the Governor stepped in, supported Grace & the tree was saved.  53-years later & it is still alive, healthy & growing well. Grace would have been really happy about this.

Sassafras trees are unusual because they produce 3 differently shaped leaves – ovate, 1-lobed & 3-lobed. The leaves, bark & small branches taste nice, which is why they are used as ingredients to make root beer. The leaves smell like citrus if crushed. Many wild animals eat the leaves & wild rabbits nibble on the bark in winter. Birds love the red berries produced by the tree.

You can watch a 25-second video of the Owensboro Kentucky Sassafras tree taken during the warmer months when it has leaves here –

So Happy Arbor Day America. I love what you do about trees. Thank you Janice for sharing this wonderful street tree with me.

Here is Janice hugging her favourite street tree - the historic Sassafras tree in Owensboro Kentucky. Photo supplied by Janice Atkinson-Kiesel with thanks.